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UN told about progress made by Sri Lanka for the advancement of women

Despite the many challenges in the last few years Sri Lanka has maintained the progress made in the context of its national machinery for advancement of women, Chathura Weerasekara, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, said addressing the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday.

“Sri Lanka has a good track record of gender equality, both historically and culturally as clearly detailed in our recorded history for more than 2500 years. Our historical evidence provides ample evidence as to the significant role, played by women, enjoying such high degree of independence, equality, viability and decision-making opportunities both at ancient royal courts and in the contemporary domestic sphere, and thereby in public life. Therefore, in modern times, it was not surprising when Sri Lanka became one of the first countries to adopt universal adult suffrage in 1931,” he said.

In compliance with the articles stipulated in the constitution of Sri Lanka and in realizing the commitments made to the international human rights instruments such as CEDAW, the laws and policies of Sri Lanka has given due consideration to promote gender equality, Weerasekara said.

Given below are excerpts of his speech: “The legal framework in Sri Lanka is in place to protect women and girls from sexual violence and in respect to many offences such as murder, rape, sexual abuse and harassment, incest, trafficking and child abuse. In 2020, the Cabinet of Sri Lanka has approved establishing a National Policy to collect sex and age disaggregated data with the ambition of designing development programmes for women and children under the national policy framework. We also note with happiness that women’s representation in the Local Government bodies has risen to 22% in 2018 with the introduction of a quota for women.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the progress made by Sri Lanka in this area faced a slowdown in parallel to its global counterparts. The pandemic has imposed a heavier burden on female healthcare workers including nurses and midwives. It has slowed down the pace of progress of development activities in the country and impacted the programmes aiming at the empowerment of women. In addition, statistics have revealed increase of incidences of violence against women and children as a result of restricted mobility.

“Against this backdrop, it can be said with pride that Sri Lanka has maintained the progress made in the context of its national machinery for advancement of women. For instance, the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs of Sri Lanka has launched a gender mainstreaming mechanism that covered all major development sectors and line ministries. The mechanism included establishment of Gender Focal points at the senior level of the said institutions, building sectoral staff capacities on gender mainstreaming and gender responsive planning and budgeting and establishment of anti-sexual harassment committees within the line ministries.

“Currently, Sri Lanka is in the process of formulation of the draft National Women’s Policy. During this process, special attention is given to investigate women’s rights issues structured by areas such as ethnicity, social class, caste that may require additional policy interventions. In addition, action is being taken to repeal the discriminatory provisions of the laws towards women.

“Sri Lanka is currently taking substantive actions to address the issues which include, inter-alia, conflict related sexual and gender-based violence towards women, trafficking and exploitation of prostitution and to strengthen the participation of women in political and public life and decision-making.

With less than eight years remaining to realize the targets envisioned in the 2030 agenda, it is vital that the subject of the advancement of women be treated as a top priority. With long-term and holistic policies, Sri Lanka looks forward to meaningfully realize the advancement of women in timely manner.”

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