Requirements for holding post of Minister of Women's Affairs - does the person bleed? Does the person have any understanding on the history of the women's movement in Sri Lanka? Does the person have any experience in the lived realities of women?
Karaliyadda: Women’s rights “against our culture and religion”
Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs Tissa Karaliyadda caused more controversy on Saturday when he told parliament that conventions aimed at providing full equality for women “go against our culture and religion”.
Responding to a question by the UNP’s Rosy Senanayake, Karaliyadda said that Sri Lanka will not ratify or enforce certain international and local conventions aimed at eradicating discrimation against women in the country. “Women enjoy equal recognition and protection. Most of these conventions go against our culture and religion,” he said.
The Minister is already under pressure for a string of sexist remarks he has made in parliament, including suggesting that women fighting for equality were sexually promiscuous and had forgotten their obligation to their husbands. The Women and Media Collective issued a statement last week calling for his resignation over the issue, but Karaliyadda’s latest comments suggest he is not about to change his ways.
Senanayake, who has already said that the 2014 Budget neglects women and children in the country, reiterated her belief that the government is handling women’s issues poorly.
“Co-ownership of land is still not upheld in Sri Lanka and it is serious issue. The salary discrimination among the female workforce is also considerable. According to the recent Central Bank report, the numbers of women engaged in irregular jobs is over 57%. They are mainly engaged in estates in the tea and rubber sector,” Senanayake said.
“Sri Lanka is one of the few countries with least women representation in politics. The President pledged to increase the female representation by 25%. But the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs still couldn’t enact laws to increase female representation over 30%,” she said.
It appears that Senanayake’s words will have little effect, however, on a government whose Minister of Women’s Affairs has made it quite clear that he does not believe in gender equality, and does so apparently without any fear of comeback or censure.