3 September 2015
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—either in Parliament or in Provincial or Local Government. Therefore we welcome this government’s commitment to a 30% quota to ensure women’s representation at local government. Women’s representation at Local Government is a first step towards entry into representative politics. Unfortunately Sri Lanka’s ranking in terms of female representation at Local Government is critically low and is less than 2%. All countries in South Asia have better representation of women numbers than Sri Lanka despite Sri Lanka’s far superior social and quality of life indictors. This is due to the implementation of affirmative action measures.
Key policy decisions are made and implemented in critical areas related to everyday life at the level of Local Government – these include basic needs such as water, sanitation, health and economic concerns such as access roads, markets, and security concerns such as street lighting. The lack of women in Local Government authorities means there is no women’s perspective or consultation possible in decisions that are made which affect their everyday life and for women there are grave consequences to the low representation of women in politics. Women’s interests and concerns are barely heard and exert little influence at any level of government. Key policy decisions are made and implemented in critical areas related to everyday life at the level of Local Government – these include basic needs such as water, sanitation, health and economic concerns such as access roads, markets, and security concerns such as street lighting. Women are 52 per cent of the population, and are citizens with rights and entitlements who do not have the same perspectives as men do, because they do not enjoy the privileges that men have. The lack of a strong representation of women in decision-making positions is, without doubt, a major cause of gender blind policy making.
Additionally, the progress that Sri Lanka has made in women’s participation in professional fields, be it in business, the legal profession including the judiciary, and the state administration is not reflected in politics. Local and national government does not adequately reflect prevailing socio economic realities and the country is losing out on the positive contribution to governance that women can make. 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 are pleased that cabinet has approved a 30% quota for women’s representation at the level of Provincial Council. We wish to point out that women have received only between 6 to 10 per cent nominations to-date and an increase in nominations at least ensuring women have a reasonable opportunity to contest at the next Local Government elections become critical. It is a need to ensure both democracy as well as good governance. We therefore propose the following and hope that all Members of Parliament will support the required legislative changes to make this a reality at the forthcoming Local Government elections.
Nominations to contest First Past the Post Seats
• Make legally binding provisions in the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act, No.22 of 2012 to ensure a mandatory 30% nominations are given to women so that they have the opportunity to contest for Local Authorities or
• Consider increasing the number of wards to ensure that women can be nominated to contest for 30% of available seats
– Collective for Gender Reforms in Politics