FR petitions against booze ban for women taken up tomorrow | Sunday Observer

FR petitions against booze ban for women taken up tomorrow

Two Fundamental Rights Petitions filed by women activists and Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and its Executive Director, Dr P. Saravanamuttu, on the basis of public interest will be taken up tomorrow.

The position of both Petitions is that regardless of whether a woman actually engages in these activities, her constitutional right to make that choice for herself should be respected to the same extent as that of a man. Two cases- SC Ref 33/2018 and SC Ref 34/2018- challenges the validity of Excise Notification No 4/2018 of the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2054-42 issued by Minister of Finance and Media on January 18 this year.

The reintroduction of the Excise Notification No 4/2018 will result in the prohibition of women above the age of 18 to manufacture, collect, bottle, sell or transport liquor and being employed for manufacturing, collecting, bottling, sale or transport of liquor and the prohibition on “giving” liquor to “a woman within the premises of a tavern”.

The five petitioners assert that Excise Notification No 4/2018 is a violation of their rights guaranteed under Article 10 [freedom of thought], Article 12(1) [equal protection of the law], Article 12(2) [non discrimination] and Article 14(1)(g) [freedom to engage in a lawful occupation, profession].

In addition to the infringement of fundamental rights it is claimed that such a reversal of the law amounts to falling short on the international and domestic commitments that the country has entered into.

This prohibition is contrary to a range of commitments made by the Government of Sri Lanka including at a minimum the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Two key recommendations made in the CEDAW Committee’s 2017 report to Sri Lanka were to ensure the de facto prohibition of discrimination against women, and to review all legislation for conformity with CEDAW. It was also recommended that the state accord statutory recognition to the right to equality and non-discrimination, and ensure that all CEDAW provisions are enforceable.

Furthermore, in May 2017, Sri Lanka regained inclusion into the European Union’s (EU) Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+). The scheme vastly reduces duties on exports to the EU on the condition of improving compliance with 27 international conventions, including CEDAW.

Finally, Sri Lanka also adopted the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015. In particular, Goal 5 seeks to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. This includes commitments to end all forms of discrimination.

Government has highlighted its commitment to the goals in a range of domestic processes, including the NHRAP and government policy, and will be subject to international follow-up and review of the SDG commitments in coming years.

The first Petition was filed by five women on their own behalf and in the public interest. They are Bhavani Fonseka, Sumika Perera, Anusha Coomaraswamy, Shreen Saroor and Minoli de Zoysa. Viran Corea, Sarita de Fonseka, Luwie Ganeshathasan, Krijah Sivakumar and Inshira Faliq appeared for the Petitioners and were instructed by Sinnadurai Sundaralingam and Balendra Associates.