61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
Sri Lanka Statement
The Hon. Minister of Women and Child Affairs of Sri Lanka
Hon. Chandrani Bandara Jayasingha
15th March 2017
United Nations, New York
Chairperson, Excellences, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am honored to deliver the statement on behalf of the Sri Lankan Government at the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
In conformity with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Sri Lanka continues to make progress in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in social, economic and political fields through progressive law reforms, formulating gender responsive policies and action plans, and by addressing the needs of the communities. The Government is presently in the process of drafting a new Constitution. Accordingly, the inclusion of women’s rights in the Fundamental Rights Chapter is currently under consideration. The Chapter on Women’s rights in the Human Rights Action Plan (2017-2021) includes provisions to address issues such as law reforms, war affected women, employment, and, enhancing institutional mechanisms for achieving the gender equality targets enshrined in Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
During the past two years, the government has focused on developing and obtaining policies and Action Plans, that include addressing such issues as violence against women, female headed households, women’s entrepreneurship development, and institutionalizing gender mainstreaming. I am happy to report that Cabinet approval has been obtained for all these policies and action plans.
One of the key priority concerns for my Ministry is eliminating violence against women. A new referral system with a multi-sectoral approach was introduced for redressing women victims of violence. Capacity development of the Police and the Judiciary was conducted for creating gender sensitivity in addressing gender base violence. We have set up six shelters in several locations in the country for the protection of victims of violence which are managed in collaboration with the NGO sector. A digital data base system is developed for the collection of GBV data which is a long felt need in the country.
We believe that law reform is vital for promoting gender equality, and the government is in the process of proposing and adopting a number of existing laws in line with the commitments under CEDAW. Medical termination of pregnancies, preventing marital rape, and strengthening the implementation of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, are some of the legal reforms currently taking place in this regard. As enumerated in the Beijing Platform for Action, gender mainstreaming has been introduced in all line Ministries, by setting up committees to introduce gender budgeting, adopting equity and equality principles in policy formulation, and awareness building. The Committee is also responsible for combatting work place sexual harassment.
Being mindful of the impact of the conflict on women, the government has identified Women Headed Households as a vulnerable social group comprising approximately 24% of the female population of the country. My Ministry has formulated a National Framework for Women Headed Households to improve their wellbeing, with special focus on income generation and protection. The Organization for National Unity and Reconciliation, is proactively look for gender relevancy in policy implementation, and, in designing reconciliation initiatives, so as to ensure that women human rights are respected and protected.
Eradicating rural poverty is a major concern of the government, and the year 2017 has been declared as the year of poverty alleviation. In addition to the regular credit schemes of the government and the Banks, the government has introduced several credit schemes to obtain easy credit for entrepreneur development. A recent initiative by my Ministry in this regard is the policy directive issued by the Treasury for allocating a minimum of 25% of the annual investment for economic development of rural women. These approaches enhance livelihood development activities for galvanizing the national policy for the eradication of poverty. Programs are already in place to encourage girls to enter into technological fields which provide opportunities in accessing the labor market.
The health policy of the country focuses on providing free health services in an equitable manner that benefit the rural poor, underserved, vulnerable and post conflict communities. The education policy framework includes equity concerns such as increasing equitable access to education, continuation of free education, and extending the age of compulsory education to 16 years. This also includes increasing access to science and technology.
For promoting women’s political participation, a 25% quota for women has been allocated for women in the Local Government bodies, while Cabinet approval is sought to provide 30% nominations for females at the Provincial Council elections.
The impact of the programs that we introduced are yet to be realized. We face many challenges, specially changing social norms and gender stereotypes that hinder gender equality. We are concerned with the gender gap in formal employment and the lack of social protection for women in the informal sector. We strongly advocate for amending the discriminatory provisions in Personal laws.
We wish to reaffirm our commitments to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and to achieving the gender oriented goals and targets developed under the sustainable development goals.
I thank you,
Hon. Chandrani Bandara,
Minister of Women and Child Affairs,