“In Sri Lanka, it is necessary that public pressure ensures that higher levels of representation of women in governance, reaching to 50 percent, including in the Constitutional Assembly and the sub committees it sets up”
The National Peace Council (NPC) has expressed its disappointment over the lack of women representation in the Constitutional Assembly due to just one woman being appointed as a deputy chairperson, from the 7 deputy chairpersons, while not a single female was represented in the 21 member steering committee which is responsible to draft the new constitution.
“While there is a recognition in Sri Lanka today that a peaceful and just society requires multi ethnic and multi religious representation in decision making, there is still no recognition that men cannot, and should not, seek to represent the interests of the entirety of society, when more than half of the population of Sri Lanka are women. Women have different priorities to men, and men and women together comprise a good society. The politically advanced societies with the highest quality of life, such as found in Northern Europe, have close to 50 percent representation of women in political decision making. Those countries have seen their government policies and priorities change with the increase in the number of women who are decision makers,” NPC said.
NPC warned that the exclusion of women from decision making in Sri Lanka at the highest levels through what appears to be a bi-partisan consensus in the Constitutional Assembly is not a positive sign for a transformation of the polity or its governance.
“It comes at a time when the government has ensured a 25 percent quota for women in local government through a reserved list for women who will be elected outside of the open list of candidates which will entail a 25 percent increase in the number of local government members. However, the government has also stated that no similar quota will be provided at the parliamentary level and that the expectation is that increased women’s representation in higher levels of governance will take place through the upward mobility of women from the local level,” the statement said.
The National Peace Council called on the civil society to encourage more and more women with qualifications to come forward for public life, while also emphasizing upon the need for the government to use, as a living and active policy, every opportunity for affirmative action in favour of women, such as in the constitutional reform process and the Constitutional Assembly.
“In Sri Lanka, it is necessary that public pressure ensures that higher levels of representation of women in governance, reaching to 50 percent, including in the Constitutional Assembly and the sub committees it sets up,” the statement added.
Women in Sri Lanka form 52 percent of the total population of nearly 21 million. Of the 225 members in Parliament, only 13 are women, which accounts to just 6%.
On April 5, Parliament converted into a Constitutional Assembly for the first time with the aim of enacting a new constitution, with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya functioning as the Chairman of the new Constitutional Assembly.
The deputy chairmen were; Thilanga Sumathipala, A. Adeikalanathan, Kabir Hashim, Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Tilak Marapana, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and Nalinda Jayatissa.
The steering committee, which is headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, includes; Lakshman Kiriella, Nimal Siripala De Silva, Rauff Hakeem, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Susil Premajayanth, Rishad Bathiudeen, Patali Champika Ranawaka, D.M. Swaminathan, Mano Ganesan, Malik Samarawickrama, R.Sampanthan, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Dilan Perera, Dinesh Gunawardena, Jayampathi Wickremaratne, M Wickramaratne, M. A. Sumanthiran, Thusitha Wijemanne, Bimal Rathnayake, Prasanna Ranatunga and Douglas Devananda.