Sri Lankan women have been enjoying the right to exercise their franchise from 1931 and nearly 53% of the population are women. Sri Lanka also had the first woman Prime Minister in the World in 1960. However, women are underrepresented in political and public decision-making bodies in the country. Though the majority of women exercise their political rights as voters or campaigners during election times, there are only 4.9% of female representatives in the parliament after 2015 Elections. On Inter-Parliamentary Union’s rank of women in parliament, Sri Lanka ranks 136th, which is the lowest in South Asian Countries. The percentage of women in parliament from the 1930s to the present has never exceeded six percent.
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-not in either Parliament or in Provincial or Local Government. Sri Lanka had an extremely low number of female candidates participating in the general elections held in 2015, even though Sri Lanka has signed key international instruments for equality between women and men, and the principals of equality and non-discrimination are constitutionally protected. As Sri Lanka doesn’t have any reserved seat for women, some women’s groups have been proposing a seat quota of at least 25% for women’s representation in Provincial Councils and Local Government.
Because of this lack of political representation, women’s interests and concerns are barely heard and exert little influence at any level of government. Key policy decisions, including legal reform, are made in critical areas such as security, economic development, reconciliation and democratization while barely consulting perspectives specific to women. The lack of a strong representation of women in decision making positions is, without doubt, a major cause of gender blind policy making.
Even though the main parties adopted a gender policy in their manifestos, including the promotion of women’s development and social welfare, the general elections of 2015 had a female representation of only nine percent with 556 women out of 6,151 candidates.
PDF : The Struggle for Equal Political Representation of Women in Sri Lanka- UNDP (2009) A Stocktaking Report for the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment and the United Nations Development Programme
LINK : Sri Lanka: where are the women in local government? – Open Democracy (2011)
LINK : Women and politics in Sri Lanka: The challenges to meaningful participation- Ground Views (2008)
LINK : A perennial struggle: Women’s political representation in Sri Lanka- Ground Views (2011)
PDF : Representation in Politics: Women and Genders in Sri Lankan Republic
LINK : Power to the people: Participation of women urged in LG polls- The Express Tribune (2015)
LINK : Nimalka Fernando on Elections and Women’s Participation- Video – Lanka News Web (2013)
LINK : Just 10 women in Parliament – a disappointing showing- The Sunday Times (2010)
LINK : Sri Lanka urged to nominate more women for elected bodies- Economy Next (2015)
PDF : State of Women in Urban, Local Government Sri Lanka- CAPWIP (2015)