To all political parties: These are our concerns

Source: Sunday Observer

Ensure women’s rights and gender equality

By Women and Media Collective

There are selected issues concerning the rights of women that all political parties are requested to commit to address:

Independent National Commission on Women

There is an urgent need to set up a strong formal institution with legal powers to address specific issues to ensure the upholding of the rights of women. We call on all political parties to ensure:

– the setting up of a well resourced, independent women’s commission

– formulate a women’s rights act that will be a firm foundation for a holistic policy on women which includes commitments made in the Women’s Charter of 1993 and incorporates Sri Lanka’s international treaty commitments

Ending violence against women

The three decades of war in Sri Lanka has left a society heavily marked bya pervasive culture of violence that has continued to affect women and meneven 6 years after the ending of the war in 2009.

Since the end of the war,reports of sexual and gender based violence against women have risenphenomenally, in the north as well as the south and the east of thecountry. We call on all political parties to:

-Formulate and implement a policy of zero tolerance on violence against women

-eliminate the practice of giving suspended sentences to those

found guilty of acts of violence against women

-criminalize marital rape

Increase Political Representation of Women

Sri Lanka has the lowest rates of women’s representation in the political arena among all the countries of South Asia.

Women’s representation is less than 7% in Parliament is less than 6%, in Provincial Councils and less than 2% in Local Government. We call on ALL political parties to ensure:

– Minimum 30% nominations for women in electoral reforms.

  • substantive electoral reform, through an inclusive process of discussion, that ensures a mandatory guarantee to ensure at least 1/3 representation of women at local and provincial government and in parliament
  • a commitment to field at least a third of candidates at the current parliamentary election and at the forthcoming local government election
  •  a comprehensive policy to deal with the specific gendered needs of all women affected by conflict
  • a commitment to ensuring an equitable representation of women in the Constitutional Council

Gender Responsive Budgets

Despite women being the majority of the population, national budgetary allocations for women specific programmes is consistently low, if not the lowest amonggovernment Ministries. We call upon ALL political parties to commit to:

  • gender responsive budgeting across all sectors and an increase in the budgetary allocation for women up to at least 5%

Ensure Right to Health for All Women and Girls

The Right to Health for All for women rests on their opportunity to be informed about sexuality, reproductive health and the SRH rights and the space to exercise these rights and enjoy the benefits. We demand that ALL political parties commit to ensure:

  • comprehensive sexuality education at all levels in schools and programmes for those who are not in school to ensure all the right to informed and responsible choice in sexual and reproductive health and rights

Ensure Right to Choice 

Abortion is illegal and considered a criminal offence, except if the pregnancy puts the woman’s life is at risk. Estimates suggest that up to 125,000-175,000 clandestine abortions take place every year.

Nearly 12% of maternal deaths in Sri Lanka are due to septic abortions- the second most common cause of direct maternal deaths;

  • 96% of these abortions are sought by married women.
  • De-criminalize abortion and allow women to make informed choices in their reproductive
  • Repeal section 365A of the penal code to ensure that adult consensual same-sex relationships are not criminalized as suggested to the Sri Lankan government, by the CEDAW Committee in 2011.

Recognise Women’s Work and Rights

The labour force participation rate is 34.8 for females and 75.2 for males.The total unemployment rate is 4.5.The unemployment rate for females is 6.4 while that for men is 3.4. Those deemed *outside* the labour force the figures for females is 5.7 million and for males it is 1.9 million.There is little recognition of women’s economic contributions as unpaid care workers. Domestic Workers are not protected by the labour laws of the country. We call on all political parties to ensure policy that:

  • Recognise *Unpaid care work* contributions of women to household and national economies.
  • Ratify ILO C189 that would bring domestic workers into the formal labour force and the protection of their rights as workers.

Rights of Women Migrant Workers

Women have been the backbone of the country’s largest  foreign exchange earnings for more than four decades.

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