Sri Lanka, while facing many challenges that hinder gender equality, is in the process of reforming laws to achieve gender equality and empower women, country’s Minister of Women and Child Affairs Chandrani Bandara says.
Delivering a statement at the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in New York, Minister Bandara said Sri Lanka continues to make progress in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in social, economic and political fields through progressive law reforms, formulating gender responsive policies and action plans, and by addressing the needs of the communities.
Sri Lanka participated at the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held at the United Nations in New York from 13 – 24 March 2017. The Priority Theme of this year’s CSW61 is ‘Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work.’
The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations co-hosted three events on the sidelines of 61CSW on the subjects of Women’s Economic Empowerment, the Role of Women in Post Conflict Reconciliation and Maternal Nutrition.
Women and Child Affairs Minister emphasized that Sri Lanka is committed to women’s empowerment and had already taken several steps to address the needs of women including war widows.
During the past two years, the Sri Lankan government has focused on developing and obtaining policies and Action Plans, that include addressing such issues as violence against women, female headed households, women’s entrepreneurship development, and institutionalizing gender mainstreaming and these plans have been approved by the Cabinet.
A Chapter on Women’s Rights had been included in the National Human Rights Action Plan (2017-2021) to address issues such as law reforms, war affected women, employment, and enhancing institutional mechanisms. An Independent Commission for Women is expected to be established through the Constitutional Council enabling women to lodge complaints directly to the commission.
Eliminating violence against women is one of the key priority concerns of her Ministry, the Minister said highlighting the measures taken by the government.
She said the law reform is vital for promoting gender equality, and the government is in the process of proposing and adopting a number of existing laws in line with the commitments under Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Medical termination of pregnancies, preventing marital rape, and strengthening the implementation of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, are some of the legal reforms currently taking place in this regard.
Being mindful of the impact of the conflict on women, the government has identified Women Headed Households as a vulnerable social group comprising approximately 24% of the female population of the country and her Ministry has formulated a National Framework for Women Headed Households to improve their well being, with special focus on income generation and protection.
For promoting women’s political participation, a 25% quota for women has been allocated for women in the Local Government bodies, while Cabinet approval is sought to provide 30% nominations for females at the Provincial Council elections.
Sri Lanka was working towards achieving the gender equality targets enshrined in Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals the Minister also said. In this context she also made reference to the necessity of eradicating rural poverty.
Minister Bandara said the impact of the programs the government has introduced are yet to be realized.
“We face many challenges, specially changing social norms and gender stereotypes that hinder gender equality. We are concerned with the gender gap in formal employment and the lack of social protection for women in the informal sector,” Women and Child Affairs Minister said adding that the government strongly advocates for amending the discriminatory provisions in Personal laws.
The Minister reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s commitment to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and to achieving the gender oriented goals and targets developed under the sustainable development goals.