The WPC submitted 17 women specific proposals to the Cabinet appointed Experts Committee with regard to draft a new Constitution on 30.12.2020 with the assistance of UNICEF and the Civil Society Organizations.
The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus of the Ninth Parliament recommended the following;
1. Ensure a gender balance through a quota of 30% – 70% for women in Parliament, provincial, local government level and any other governance and executive structures e.g. Boards, SOEs, Authorities, etc.
2. Ensure that a 50% allocation is made for women on the National Lists of all parties.
3. Consider seriously the introduction of allocating specific electorate divisions for women representatives exclusively as has been the practice in some countries.
4. Ensure that Commissions have substantive female representation – for Commissions of three members, at least one should be a woman; for commissions of five members at least two shall be women; for commissions comprising more than five members, 40% should be women and 10% allocated for PLWDs.
5. In the main party structure/hierarchy ensure that at least 33% of the leadership positions, committee positions, executive positions, working committee membership, are held by women.
6. Special provisions in relation to Election Processes for PLWDs should be legalized. (see attached list of recommendations from PLWDs received from IFES)
7. There should be two positions of Deputy Speakers of Parliament of whom one shall be a woman MP.
8. The Public Finance Committee should set up a monitoring mechanism that supports reviewing of budget allocations and budget implementation from a gender and social inclusion perspective as part of their routine oversight responsibilities.
9. A separate committee to work on GRB either within Parliament or as a sub-committee within the PFC should be set up as should a similar GRB committee in the Executive (Ministry of Finance).
10. The Court of Appeal and Supreme Court need to maintain a 30%-70% gender balance as by culture and practice this is a male dominated sector.
11. There shall be separate Ministries with separate budgets and their own structures for the following subject areas:
a. Women and Gender
c. Persons Living with Disabilities (given that disability is a diverse condition across a wide spectrum, on which ageing is an influencer)
12. The National Women’s Commission should be an independent entity rather than positioned as a part of the Women’s Ministry. They should be elevated to the status enjoyed by other Commissions.
13. The Constitution should address and provide for security of women, children, PLWDs and other underrepresented and vulnerable groups.
14. A gender balance of 30% to 70% for women in the Sri Lanka Police and defense services should be ensured whilst other barriers should be removed from the black letter law.
15. Voting rights of migrant workers should be a legal imperative and a constitutional right and reflected in the new constitution.
16. The Constitution should include a separate chapter on Child rights.
17. Wage disparities based on gender should be eliminated.
Following knowledge sharing sessions were conducted via Zoom technology in coordination with Civil Society Organizations:
I. On 26th January 2021 : Policy Dialogue I- Sexual Harassment at workplace and ILO (C 190) Convention on Violence and Harassment at the workplace with relevant stakeholders
‘A dialogue on Sexual Harassment at workplace’ is a policy dialogue series with the participation of the Members of the trade unions in Sri Lanka, the private sector and other civil society organizations. The focus of the discussion was to provide an insight into sexual harassment at the workplace in Sri Lanka, the gaps that persist in relation to the Sri Lankan law and the ‘Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work (C 190)’ and the way forward to address the issue.
The Caucus agreed unanimously that they would promote the ratification of ILO Convention 190 to address Violence and Sexual Harassment in the Work Place through strong and immediate policy change and law reform, placing the offence in the context of the labour law regime, complementing attempts to address the issue that currently lie within the criminal law regime under Section 345 of the Penal Code.
II. On 02nd February 2021: Discussion on the importance of formulating the Action Plan for the period of 2021-2024 with relevant stakeholders at Water’s Edge Hotel, Battaramulla and a simultaneous Zoom Meeting
Discussed the importance of formulating the Action Plan for the period of 2021-2024 and mentioned the following points to be included for the Action Plan 2021-2024;
• Increasing women’s representation in all levels of government
• Increase women’s representation in decision-making bodies (i.e. political parties, Independent Commissions etc.)
• Reforms to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) to enable girls to marry at the age of 18 years
• Discriminatory laws such as personal and property related laws
• Sexual harassment at workplace and in the public transport
• Online hate speech- efforts to monitor and respond
• Gender mainstreaming in all legislation (engendering legislations)
• Gender responsive budgeting,
• Maternity leave issues and
• Other issues related to gender and women
The members represented various civil society organizations explained various issues faced by women in the society at present and proposed the below suggestions to be incorporated into the Caucus’ Action Plan;
- Come up with a strategy to implement quotas at the parliamentary and provincial council level. As part of the advocacy campaign/ Caucus strategy, the importance of obtaining women votes were highlighted.
- Work towards retaining the 25 percent quota at the local government level. Tackle the issues related to criticism leveled against the quota and whether or not the 25 percent given to women is productive.
- Joint effort to promote and advocate for women’s political participation and gender equality in the constitutional reform process.
- Promote women’s representation in committees and decision-making bodies with at least one committee member to be a woman. Lack of women in decision making roles within political parties was identified as a primarily reason for lack of women’s representation in politics.
- The Caucus agreed to meet with political party secretaries and demand for women to be appointed into these committees.
- Propose to engage with male allies and male counterparts where necessary to support stronger gender equality.
- Support the MMDA reforms. To meet the Minister of Justice as a delegation to propose amendments to the MMDA.
- Gender responsive budgeting at various levels of governance.
- Strengthening the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus and work towards women’s representation at all levels.
III. On 9th February 2021 : Discussion on the future programmes of the Caucus with relevant stakeholders at Grand Monarch Hotel, Thalawathugoda and a simultaneous Zoom Meeting
The Caucus agreed to address the following issues that concern women and to include these issues in the Caucus Action Plan 2021-2024 without party politics;
- Increasing women’s representation in all levels of government,
- Propose to introduce women’s quotas at the Parliamentary and Provincial Councils. Conduct advocacy efforts with the Election Commission of Sri Lanka (ECSL).
- Increase women’s representation in decision making bodies (i.e. political parties, Independent Commissions etc.)
The Caucus also agreed for the following activities were recommended to overcome the above mentioned issues;
- Create awareness on voting for women at all levels of government
- Conduct advocacy efforts around promoting women’s political representation
- Conduct knowledge sharing programs with old/current women parliamentarians with the new members in order to support each other in politics (irrespective of party politics)
- Sexual harassment in workplace/politics (online and offline)• Reforms to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) to enable girls to marry at the age of 18 years
- Early pregnancies and marriages (much prevalent in the North and East and proposed to conduct awareness raising for parents, educate children at young ages on sexual and reproductive health, sex education and provide adequate resources to prevent early pregnancies)
- Gender mainstreaming in all legislation (engendering legislations)
IV. On 17th February 2021: Policy Dialogue II – Women and Land Issues with relevant stakeholders
‘A dialogue on women and land issues’ is part of a policy dialogue series organized with the participation of Activists, legal practitioners, community members affected by land issues and other civil society organizations. The discussion’s focus was to provide an insight into land issues in Sri Lanka and their impact on women. The discussion brought together multiple stakeholders from various backgrounds to share experiences and insights on the subject.
- Following events have been carried out on 9th March 2021 to mark the International Women’s Day:
I. Launch of the Website designed for the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus by the Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister and the Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, the Speaker of Parliament.
II. Conducting of a press briefing on the work of the Caucus and a panel discussion on issues faced by women.
III. Moving of the Resolution for the establishment of a Select Committee (Select Committee to look into and report to Parliament its recommendations to ensure gender equity and equality with special emphasis on looking into gender based discriminations and violations of women’s rights in Sri Lanka).
IV. Moving of a Motion at the Adjournment time on empowerment of women through the ratification of Convention No. 190 of International Labour Organization by the Hon. (Mrs.) Rohini Kumari Wijerathna, Deputy Co-Chair of the Caucus.
On 25th February 2021: Matters relating to Avanthi Devi Children’s Home in Anuradhapura with relevant authorities
- National Secretariat for Early Childhood Development
- Department of Probation and Child Care Services
- National Child Protection Authority
The Caucus emphasized the following points regarding children;
1. That the educational activities of all the children who stayed in the orphanage should continue.
2. To ensure the psychosocial care of children.
3. Coordinating with the relevant hospitals in the relevant area and working with the relevant doctors regarding the mental development and psychotherapy of the children as the relevant doctors could not be easily traced.
4. All the children’s homes should be properly regulated.
On 24th March 2021 discussed the following matters:
I. To finalize the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Caucus
II. Progress of ratification of the International Labor Ordinance (ILO) C 190 (Total eradication of harassment in workplaces)
III. Key point for discussion – Work on Gender Responsive Budgeting
- The WPC held a press conference to protest against the denial of the post of Ms. Bimshani Jasin Arachchi as the first Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police and to make all the people of the country aware of such discrimination.
– As a result, Sri Lanka Police has simultaneously promoted three female Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) to the rank of Deputy Inspector General (DIG), marking a breakthrough in its history. (Ms. Renuka Jayasundara, Nishanthi Senevirathna, and Padmini Weerasuriya now serve as DIGs)
- On 22nd June 2021: Consideration of proposed submission to the Select Committee on Election Law Reforms Chaired by the Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Education and Leader of the House of Parliament.
- The WPC discussed on the consideration of submitting the representation of Select Committee of Election Law Reforms Chaired by the Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena. The submitted proposals (on 14.06.2021) are as follows;
Recommendations for Electoral Reforms specific to women
- To ensure a gender balance of 30% – 70% at Parliament, provincial and local government levels.
- To ensure quality of candidacy across parliament and provincial and local councils, plus the local governments it is recommended to consider minimum qualifications and/or at least two years’ experience in community projects/work or other governance initiatives.
- The WPC strongly urges that the minimum of 25% quota for women under the Local Authorities Election Amendment Act No. 16 of 2017 be retained without any changes.
- To ensure 50% allocation for women from the allocation of each political party to the National List at Parliament, Provincial Council and Local Government elections.
- Ensure at least 33% of the women representation in all Statutory Bodies/ Boards/ Commissions.
- Consider seriously the introduction of allocating specific electorate divisions for women representatives exclusively as has been the practice in some countries.
- In the main party structure/hierarchy ensure that at least 33% of the leadership positions, committee positions, executive positions, working committee membership, are held by women.
- Strengthen election laws so that violence of election laws can be punishable.
- It should be made imperative that all MPs annually declare their assets to the public as part of the implementation of the National Action Plan to Combat Corruption (and not only to the Hon. Speaker, as happens at present). This should be incorporated into the election law as well.
- Impose controls, regulation and accountability on campaign financing to ensure equal opportunities for participation.
- Increase the minimum of 30% nomination for women in the Parliament, Provincial Council and Local Government elections.
- If Parliament decides to revert to the preferential vote system of the past, it is crucial to bring in a mandatory provision of thirty percent nominations of women per district.
General Recommendations on Electoral Reforms
- Unification of all electoral laws in Sri Lanka into one consolidated electoral Code/Act.
- Introduction of a common electoral system for parliamentary, provincial council and local authority elections.
- To ensure voting rights of the citizens irrespective of their residential areas, disabilities and mobility restrictions through a viable system.
- For Parliamentary and Provincial Council and Local Government elections, zip the Pre-ranked District List by alternating the names of women and men. Additions or adjustments to the lists shall be prohibited and should be made a punishable offence once it is submitted to the Election Commission of Sri Lanka (ECSL).
Following virtual meeting has been organized via Zoom technology
I. On 02nd July 2021: Inaugural Awareness Programme on Inclusive and Gender Responsive Budgeting (IGRB) with relevant stakeholders
- Prof. Dileni Gunewardena, Department of Economics & Statistics, University of Peradeniya
- Dr. Samanmala Dorabawila, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics & Statistics, University of Peradeniya
Prof. Dilani Gunawardena and Dr. Samanmala Dorabawila, Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Peradeniya, conducted a special session regarding the background of gender responsive budgeting and its necessity.
The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus proposed that the National Budget should focus on the impact upon both genders within the Sri Lankan community given the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic and also give attention towards the groups that have been severely affected by the situation.
Accordingly, it was decided to draw attention towards several proposals that will focus on gender in the preparation of the budget for the year 2022.
The Members of the WPC present at this meeting agreed to give consideration to gender when preparing the budget proposals of the relevant Ministries having informed all the relevant officials of the key line Ministries regarding gender budgeting.
Furthermore, the Members of the WPC decided to work closely with Parliamentary Committees such as the Committee on Public Finance to draw the attention of the relevant committees on gender responsive budgeting and thereby engaging with the main process of budget preparation.
In addition, Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus decided that a comprehensive media campaign was needed to create social awareness about gender responsive budgeting.
The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in Parliament sent a letter to the Hon. (Dr.) Sarath Weerasekara , Minister of Public Security with copies to the , State Minister of Women and Child Development, Pre-Schools & Primary Education, School Infrastructure & Education Services, Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Secretary, State Ministry of National Security and Disaster Management and Inspector General of Police on 29.06.2021 regarding the Domestic Violence Complaints during Pandemic related Travel Restrictions and to draw special consideration and quick response to overcome the significant issues by issuing a series of guidelines to all responsible authorities in order to advise them on the current system of protection against domestic violence. A separate letter also sent to the Hon. Hon. Ali Sabri, Minister of Justice to draw special consideration and quick response to overcome this significant issue faced by women and children during the COVID 19- related travel restrictions.
On 03rd August 2021: Discussion on Child Abusing in Sri Lanka with relevant authorities
- State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre-Schools & Primary
- Education, School Infrastructure & Education Services
- Department of Probation and Child Care Services
- National Child Protection Authority
The Caucus Members emphasized the importance of preventing the media from revealing the identity of the child victim and from providing detailed information related to the ongoing legal process in particular to child abuse.
The importance of the strict enforcement of the law against employing any girl or boy under the age of 18 years, enforcement of laws on child abuse and raising awareness regarding child abuse prevention at grassroots level, amending certain laws relating to child protection which are way out of time and the importance of proper coordination between all relevant institutions was highlighted further.
The need to establish a separate Department of Social Services to create awareness among parents on gender equality whilst raising awareness of parents to prevent child abuse and regulate the process implementing long-term child abuse prevention programs was also discussed.
As per the request made at the meeting of the WPC held on 03.08.2021, the WPC has prepared a representation on the amendments to the Sri Lanka Press Council Act No. 05 of 1973 incorporating all media channels with the collaboration of the State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre-Schools & Primary Education, School Infrastructure & Education Services and sent to the Hon. Minister of Mass media with a copy to the Sri Lanka Press Council on 24.09.2021.
Orange the Parliament – Women Parliamentarians of Sri Lanka Stood in Solidarity with the Global Movement of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, held on 25th November 2021.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign that takes place each year beginning on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and concluding on December 10th, Human Rights Day. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the campaign. The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in Parliament intends to support this global campaign this year which, in symbolic way.
Parliament of Sri Lanka stands in solidarity with the global movement and unites with the global theme as the Parliamentarians wear Orange colour attire (25th November) to Orange the Parliament as an initiative by the WPC.
Following events have been organized for the 8th March 2022 to mark the International Women’s Day:
I. Opening of the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) Section in the Library of Parliament scheduled to be held on the 08th March 2022 at 9.30 a.m.
II. Conducting of a series of Media Talk Shows on the theme of IWD 2022 (Break The Bias) scheduled to be conducted from the 07th March to 11th March 2022 in Parliament.
III. Moving of a Motion at the Adjournment time, marking the International Women’s Day on the 08th March 2022.
IV. Uploading the Summary report on the work of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus to the Caucus Website on the 08th March 2022.