RECOMMENDATIONS MADE BY WOMEN’S GROUPS TO THE 20TH AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION CURRENTLY UNDER DISCUSSION
Women in Sri Lanka have had the right to vote from as early as 1931, but very little opportunity to become the people’s elected political representatives—in either Parliament or in Provincial or Local Government. This fact has been highlighted worldwide in official statistics, where the country rates shockingly low on the global index of women’s political representation including when compared with South Asia. Currently Sri Lanka ranks 140 out of 153 countries in terms of female representation in Parliament. Because of this lack of political representation, women’s interests and concerns are barely heard and exert little influence at any level of government. Key policy decisions (including legal reform) are made in critical areas such as security, economic development, reconciliation and democratization while barely consulting perspectives specific to women—52 per cent of the population. The lack of a strong representation of women in decision making positions is, without doubt, a major cause of gender blind policy making.
President Maithripala Sirisena echoed this concern in his 100 day Work Programme, proposing that legislation would be introduced to ensure at least 25% women’s representation in Provincial Councils and Local Government. We, citizens and women concerned with democratic change, urge all political parties in Sri Lanka to take necessary steps to increase the number of women in Parliament, taking into consideration that it is a sine qua non of good democratic governance (yahapalanaya) that all citizens should be given equal access to political representation, regardless of gender, class, caste, ethnicity, and so on.
We, women, voters and citizens, call on all political parties support the following provisions and include them in the 20th Amendment:
1. 165 First Past the Post seats Reserve seats for women – We ask that electorates that have a majority of women be designated only for women candidates or one electorate per district be allocated only to women candidates. This electorate can be selected on a rotating basis. This ensures that women will get 22 seats. Similar provisions have been made in India. Mandatory reservations of 25% women, in nomination lists submitted by parties: this ensures that women are given the opportunity to contest the First Past the Post seats
2. District Proportional Representation List Since this list is small and limited to 31 seats, each district may only have one or two appointments possible; in many instances this may be limited to one PR appointee per district. Therefore, there should be a mandatory appointment of a woman as the first candidate in the District PR list
3. The National List The national list has a limitation of a maximum number of 59 members, but this could go down to 37 in the event of seats being allocated from the overhang. Thus the demand is that every 2nd appointment from the National list be given to a woman. This will enable women to be appointed to at least 18 seats.
4. Multi Member Constituencies Given the probability that some electorates may be designated as multi-member constituencies, a minimum of one woman candidate should be nominated to contest these seats.