Women face numerous issues- Seetha Arambepola | Sunday Observer
Call for Special Parliamentary Select Committee on women’s issues:

Women face numerous issues- Seetha Arambepola

7 March, 2021

The twelve women parliamentarians in the House, collectively presented a proposal to the Speaker recently, to set up a Special Parliamentary Select Committee (SPSC) on women’s issues.

This proposal can also be seen as an applaudable feat by the Women Parliamentarians Caucus of the Parliament (WPC) led by Minister Sudarshini Fernandopulle, the Chairperson of the WPC, as they have sunk their political differences and set an example about the importance of placing the public interest first in national issues before political gain.

The gender gap

As per the international sex ratio, Sri Lanka is the 22nd country with more women than men in the total population (as a percentage). However, Sri Lanka is also ranked 102 of 153 countries in terms of gender gap (Global Gender Gap Index-2020). 

“In my maiden speech in Parliament, I called on the Speaker to appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee on women’s issues. Later we discussed this at a meeting of the WPC, and proposed it to the Speaker as a collective effort,” Deputy President of the WPC, State Minister Seetha Arambepola told the Sunday Observer.

Rather than any other committee, a Special Parliamentary Committee bears authority to inquire about matters thus making it a powerful arm to seek practical solutions to the issues of women. As State Minister Arambepola said, there are several legislative issues too, women face in general.

“One such issue is land rights. According to the law, land rights of parents goes to the eldest son, not the eldest child. It is clearly discrimination based on gender. Also in terms of the labour rights, women are paid less compared to men, despite the same amount of work carried out by both,” she said.

Lack of female participation in politics has always been a hot topic. Nevertheless, Arambepola thinks it is only one side of the story.

“There is no doubt about the fact that we need more female participation in politics. But that should not be the end of the discussion. There are tons of common issues faced by women around the country. We aim to visit those issues through the proposed SPSC,” she said.

Jasin Arachchi incident

Matale district SJB (Samagi Jana Balawegaya) Parliamentarian Rohini Kumari Wijerathna, a  Deputy President of the WPC, thinks the SPSC could be a good platform to resolve issues particularly with regard to violence against women.

“This Parliamentary Select Committee was active during the time when Minister Chamal Rajapaksa was the Speaker of Parliament. Therefore, this is not something new. But for some reason this was not active in the past couple of years and issues of women have not also been addressed properly,” she said.  

Besides, this move is another display of unity among female parliamentarians despite their different political ideologies.

The WPC stood together and even called a press briefing urging the protection of rights and job security of Bimshani Jasin Arachchi, who was recently promoted as the first female Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police. Following the voice raised by the WPC, the subject Minister Sarath Weerasekara also criticised the irrational behaviour of male police officers towards the promotion of DIG Jasin Arachchi.

“There are so many Bimshanis in this country” MP Wijerathna said. A school teacher turned politician, Wijerathna believes that educational qualifications and skills have to be the only requirements for anyone to climb the ladder of professional success.

“If gender becomes a detrimental factor when selecting someone for a higher position, it is nothing but the act of a savage. Therefore, I am glad in a way that the incident of DIG Jasin Arachchi came out, as it created a good platform to talk about the issues of the women,” she said.

Asked about the possibility of the SPSC overseeing the work of the National Committee on Women and Women’s Bureau, the State Minister Arambepola said, “There are so many Parliamentary Select Committees, currently in place. We are not anticipating interference into the matters of such institutions. Instead we wish to stimulate them with our findings and actions.” “We do not want this to be yet another committee in Parliament. We will continuously follow the progress, until resolutions are made,” she said.