Colombo Telegraph

Gender Discrimination In Sri Lankan Politics

By Muhammed Fazl

Muhammed Fazl

When I was a boy, I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it now” – Clarence Darrow

Just when we thought the circus was finally over, we are proven wrong yet again. After all that talk of Yahapalanaya (good governance), when the leadership lacks the backbone to prevent drug lords such as Lanzas, ethanol kings such as Lakshman Wasanthas, Arundikas, Johnstons, operators of gambling centers and/or murders such as Thilangas, Punchi Nilames, Premalals and Kathirearachchis among others from harming the country and its people, it certainly does not signal changes to our political culture of impunity.

Apart from considering might as right, choosing legislators to the parliament in Sri Lanka is akin to selecting a bimbo in a beauty pageant after listening to her short speech about her non-existent charitable causes. Talking of which, personalities such as Geetha Kumarasinghe and Rosy Senanayake certainly do come into my mind.

Women Representation

While I am yet to understand the rationale behind allocating a certain percentage of seats for women candidates, I would appreciate if a knowledgeable person would comment with replies to the following questions/observations,

1. Should allocation of parliamentary seats be based on different sexual organs (just asking) or should we be allocating seats for competent/qualified individuals irrespective of which sex they belong to?

2. Taking into consideration previously elected female legislators such as Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Sumedha Jayasena, Kanthi Kodikkara, Swarnamali (Pabha), Geetha Kumarasinghe, Kamala Ranathunga, Sunethra Ranasinghe, Rosy Senanayake, Chandrika Bandaranaike etc., can one state their significant and individual achievements to date in relation to good governance, women empowerment, children’s rights etc.? (Or, need I write another column about their negative actions?)

3. If the answer to the previous question is a negative, or if 52% of the total population themselves do not want female candidates elected, would it be correct for few legislators (at the behest of Western nations) to enact laws forcing choices (limiting rather) on voters? And if it is so, would that process still be known as ‘Democracy’?

4. Can someone please state specific and factual advantages of having a woman candidate selected to the parliament over a COMPETENT male candidate? Wouldn’t it be also a great loss in the event of a qualified male candidate’s expertise not being harnessed to its maximum potential in the interest of the country, and arising due to a limited number of slots being made available for male candidates?

5. Are Sri Lankan women politically matured enough to lead people and/or the nation? Also, are they too greedy for power and perks or are they too proud to influence men surrounding them in their lives to bring about a social/political change?

6. Since service to the nation can continue even without power or authority (as in my case), would personalities such as Rosy Senanayake and Ferouza Muzammil live up to their promises made on election campaign platforms and continue their ‘selfless political activism’ sans prestige, positions and perks?

7. Taking into account their family backgrounds, marital status etc., how many of them women candidates can boast of successful family lives as good mothers and morally fit wives? This criteria may look a personal matter to some, but failure as mothers and wives disqualifies one from being exemplary to a larger society… at least in my eyes.

8. History has taught us that even though females get elected to top positions in the legislature, it is the men around them who in reality exploits and abuses the authority bestowed on the elected women. In this context, does it not indicate vulnerabilities of women by nature to emotional and/or physical pressure?

While I have no personal animosities against any female candidate, I believe women should be equal to men in terms of having the freedom to decide on their political careers. It is also essential to acknowledge the fact that an incompetent woman is never equal to a learned man, and that should go without saying. Only an equally learned woman can be on par with a learned man. Hence, let us not discriminate or prevent competent and qualified males from being selected as legislators solely for reasons of gender.

*The writer is an independent social/political activist and can be contacted at muhammedfazl@msn.com and through FB (Fazl Muhammed Nizar)

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