perception of women
'Parliament's Representation of Women: A Selective Review of Sri
Lanka's Hansards from 2005-2014' was launched by Women and Media
Collective at the Taj Samudra Hotel, Colombo on January 30. Providing a
'thick description' of the references made to women in Parliament, the
study adopts a qualitative approach to unpack and understand the
ideological underpinnings of discourses surrounding the understanding of
and engagement with the woman-citizen. Through its findings, the Review
also calls for a transformation of Parliamentary talk on women.
The period selected for analysis - 2005 to 2014 - could be
characterised in general as having a stable and well-established
government headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The decade was also a time during which the government introduced and
implemented its political and economic policies, ended the three-decade
war, and introduced development plans for post-war Sri Lanka.
Different chapters in the study deal with different time periods
within this general time frame, depending on their specific focus.
However, the general period covered by the chapters provides the
opportunity to examine and comment on systematic interventions made by a
government within the overview of their political ideology.
and Media Collective's (WMC) Sepali Kotegoda, in the Foreword, states
the study is an outcome of WMC's engagement in advocacy, activism, and
participation in formal processes to address how women's interests are
represented by the country's legislature.
"The representation of women in Sri Lanka's Parliament has been
historically low; for over five decades it has fallen below seven per
cent. A number of other women's organisations, researchers, and
activists have been involved in advocating this issue, often sharing
strategies and coming together at different fora to highlight, demand,
and, where necessary, submit, carefully worked out proposals to
political parties and to respective governments," she writes, adding
that in the course of discussing and reviewing their own approaches, the
WMC recognised that as much as they needed to persist with this external
lobbying, they also needed to attempt to understand how these e?orts in
the public sphere are re?ected at the level of discourse within
"The result was the coming together of eight researchers to focus on
two key areas of parliamentary discourse: (a) how do members of
Parliament speak on issues related to women (b) what issues do women
parliamentarians speak on during parliamentary debates," she writes,
explaining that 'Parliament's Representation of Women' is based on
readings of selected Hansard reports over the period 2005 - 2014, with
the objective getting a measure of Parliamentarians' understandings of
and commitment to addressing gender in/equality in the country, and to
explore the role of women's organisations, rights activists, and
researchers in this arena.