UN calls for increase in women’s political representation in Sri Lanka
March 6, 2015 04:58 pm
The United Nations today urged all political parties in Sri Lanka to take steps necessary to increase the number of women being nominated for elected bodies.
Mr. Subinay Nandy, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka made this request speaking at an event held to mark International Women’s Day, organized by the South Asia Policy Research Institute (SAPRI).
He pledged that the United Nations will do its best to engage with national partners to increase women’s political engagement in Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka is currently at an important juncture where there is strong commitment by the new government to introduce reforms to the electoral system. Women’s representation in the political sphere is an important part of this.”
“Against this background, we urge all registered political parties in Sri Lanka to take whatever steps necessary to increase the number of women being nominated for elected bodies both at national and sub-national levels,” he said.
Mr. Nandy pointed out that Sri Lankan women have enjoyed universal adult franchise since 1931 and that Sri Lanka produced the world’s first democratically elected woman Prime Minister in 1960.
However, Sri Lanka ranks 140 out of 153 countries in terms of female representation in parliament, which is one of the lowest in South Asia and the world. Women occupy less than 6% of parliamentary seats .
As of 2012, women occupied just 4% in Provincial Councils and 1.9% in local governments .
Mr. Nandy further said that: “Without a strong representation of women in decision making positions, there is no guarantee that women’s perspectives are adequately reflected in key policy decisions relating to critical areas such as security, economic development, reconciliation and democratization in today’s Sri Lanka.”
“If we look at the local context, we see that Sri Lanka has witnessed rising levels of sexual and gender based violence, a phenomenon that requires urgent and immediate attention of authorities.”
“Increasing number of cases of sexual abuse of children and women are reported particularly from the former conflict zones of North and East, although increasing trends are being observed across the country.”
“In taking up this issue, we would encourage women parliamentarians to link up with Commission on Status of Women which in its Report on the fifty-seventh session in 2013 urged States to strongly condemn violence against women and girls committed in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, and calls for effective measures of accountability and redress as well as effective remedies.”
“Coming back to the issue of women’s political representation in Sri Lanka, we understand that such low levels have always been seen as a conundrum when Sri Lanka has performed so well in other spheres such as education and health.”
“The issue is not only that the number of women elected is low, but that the number of women nominated by political parties to contest at elections is also equally low. Nomination of women to any level of elected body has not increased beyond 7.7 per cent of the total candidates nominated.”