Finally, more political clout for women
More than half of the Sri Lankan population are women. Despite
advanced human development indicators for Sri Lankan women,
representation of them in political institutions is still minimal. Be it
in the Parliament, Provincial Council or the other Local Government
institutions, women have a very limited chance in being elected as
people’s political representatives.
State Minister for Child
Development Rosy Senanayake
Forced, bargained for nearly 30 years the dream of politically active
women for a fair share is going to become a reality along with the much
debated facts of the 20th Amendment to the Sri Lanka constitution.
We are hoping that including women’s quota will bring positivity to
the Sri Lankan political arena, said State Minister for Child
Development Rosy Senanayake.
Recommendations made by the United National Party women
parliamentarians, in which Minister Senanayake was taking a lead, will
be considered when establishing the 20th Amendment to the constitution.
“We recommended 50% women representation in the national list and the
district list. And a minimum of one woman for a district which will
eventually ensure that there will be at least 22 women representation in
the Parliament,” she said, while explaining the current positive
approach happening in the country’s legislature which agrees to increase
women representation in politics.
What are the arguments coming opposing this idea? The immediate
thought the male dominated decision making committees raise is ‘where
are the women?’ according to the senior parliamentarian.
“When I first presented my proposals on this to the Parliamentary
Committee their first question was where we would find those women,”
said Minister Senanayake. There are enough and more women, who are
already active in the political fields who would rise when the chance is
given in the political field, she stressed. “I can directly recommend at
least a minimum of 50 who are fit for the job,” she added.
“We as women parliamentarians have been pushing this need to have
more women at decision-making level. And we had no other choice but to
go for affirmative action,” Senanayake said. Women fit for politics come
from a cross-section of the society be they academics, intellectuals,
politicians or professionals. Be it at the national or the grassroots
levels women are in the forefront in active politics. Yet, at the
decision making level hardly a fraction is represented, she explained.
The highlighting fact is that the capacity of women to serve the
nation has not been recognised. It is just a matter of recognising and
giving the opportunity and Minister Senanayake assured that a battalion
of women from the national and grassroots level will be lined up to
Opening up the platform with an equal chance, capable professional
women with a vision, value and an education will lead the way for good
governance. “They only need to be given a fair chance,” added Minister
Senanayake.The system should be capable of supporting suitable women to
enter politics who could add value to the field but usually not
An expert in the field of electoral reforms Asoka Abeygunawardana
supporting this idea said that the much appropriate method they propose
is a combination of proportionate and the electoral representing
systems. “The proportionate system will give a positive support to
women’s representation. Yet, the preferential selection need to be moved
and replaced by the electoral system so that women who will be members
of Parliament would be the ones who were really elected by the people,”
We have suffered enough with the Preferential voting system and from
that we, as citizens, will not be able to select better representation
in to the Parliament,” he added.
A Cabinet paper was approved to draft amendments to the Provincial
Councils Elections Act No. 02 of 1988 by adding provisions to ensure
that more than 30% of the total candidates included in nomination papers
submitted by political parties or groups should consist of women
The Cabinet of Ministers approved the paper on May 20, presented by
the Minister of Provincial Councils and Regional Development Janaka
In addition, soon after the new Government coming into power,
President Maithripala Sirisena pointed out this concern in the 100 days
Program, proposing that legislation would be introduced to ensure at
least 25% women’s representation in Provincial Councils and Local
Considering the current status of women in any profession in the
public and the private sectors, is such that we need to have greater
recognition, said Kumudini Samuel, program and research associate of the
Women and Media Collective, one of the notable organisations who have
stood up to raise women participation in politics for over two decades.
As citizens, women concerned with a democratic change, must urge all
political parties in Sri Lanka to take necessary steps to increase the
number of women in Parliament and it is the sign of good democratic
governance,” explained Samuel.
And most importantly, political parties must establish democracy
within their own political parties, said Samuel, highlighting that all
citizens should be given equal access to political representation,
regardless of gender, class, caste, ethnicity.
Despite the normal conception that there are less women coming up to
contest for elections from the North, there is nearly a 30% women
representation at the Provincial Council level said Sarojini Kanendran
Chairperson of ‘Viluthu’ - a grassroots level organisation working in
the North and the East.
“The politicians cannot state that there are no women to come into
politics from the North and the East, looking at these numbers,” she
Pointing out that it is high time women given the due chance to be at
the decision making level rather being confined and labelled as hard
workers Kanendran said that women active in politics in the North and
the East are ‘awaiting to see this change in the election reforms.’
“The real situation in the North is that if the election reforms
include the woman’s quota, there will be a huge uproar in the society”
The Women and Media Collective, keeping the demands for women
representation alive for over two decades, jointly with academics,
activists and the average woman from the village, stressed that society
should not look at this demand as a subject ‘cooked up’ by feminists.
“If women represent 52% of the Sri Lankan population and majority of the
labour force, what is the democracy we talk about if their
representation at the country’s legislature is not strong enough to make
a voice,” they emphasised.