60.In view of the large number of advice files received by the Attorney General’s Department to render legal advice on sexual violence against children and women, it has been recommended that the aforementioned Cabinet memorandum be given effect to and permission be granted for the establishment of a permanent unit to handle the sexual violence matters relating to childeren and women.
61.During the period commencing from 1st January, 2020 to 31st December 2020, the Attorney General has concluded actions in 26449 criminal cases and forwarded 14,083 indictments to the high court. These cases include cases of sexual violence against women and children. The special unit in the department which was established to deal with cases related to children has been expanded to include incidents related to SGBV.
Effectively implement the National Plan of Action for addressing Sexual and Gender Based Violence
62.A review of the implementation of the Multi Sectorial National Action Plan to Address SGBV 2016 -2020 is currently underway. The review findings show more than 60% of implementation of the plans by the sectoral Ministries.
63.The health sector has implemented 86.3% of the planned activities out of which 57.8% are completed and 28.9% are on-going, some nearing completion. The activities include i.) Capacity building of health sector staff, ii.) Developed and institutionalized Standard Operative Procedures (SOPs) to address GBV targeting preventive health (PH). Public Health Midwives during their home visits are expected to be vigilant and identify survivors and offer emotional support (LIVES) and refer for additional support services. During the year 2019 PHMs were able to identify 13,795 survivors of which 7726 accepted the offer for referral. The key interventions carried out by the health sector in addressing the needs of survivors is the establishment of GBV Care Centers: Mithuru Piyasa / Natpu Nilayam, within the state hospitals utilizing the human resources available within the health system. 43 new GBV Care Centers have been started during reporting period and made operational in 75 hospitals, providing dedicated services to survivors of GBV. Two temporary shelters are being piloted in Kaluthara and Nuwaraeliya districts with the support of Provincial /District health authorities.
64.As part of the NAP implementation, Ministry of Labour and Trade Union Relations have implemented 46.25% of the planned activities and taken a number of steps to ensure safe workplace for the employees, negotiate with employers to provide transport facilities and other infrastructure to ensure safe working environment etc. DoL has jointly worked with Employers Federation and ILO to develop guidelines to address workplace harassment and a number of private sector establishments have agreed to these guidelines. The policy intervention on domestic workers is supported by civil society organizations and ILO. A research on the issues of domestic workers is done to build evidence that is to be used in the policy making process. Vocational and Technical Education Sub Sector has implemented 42% of the planned activities under the NAP. In 2017 the Treasury has issued instructions to sectoral line Ministries to allocate funds for the implementation of the NAP.
65.The Government has strengthened institutional structures to intensify activities to curb GBV. The officers attached to Women and children units at the divisional level, health professionals and volunteers at the MithuruPiyasa / NaptuNilayam, women officers of the Police Women and Child Desks, lawyers attached to the Legal Aid Commission and civil society organizations provide legal support, counselling, psycho social support and medical screening to victims of GBV. Counselling is provided by the staff of Women and Child Unit, the counselling unit of Mithuru Piyasa and NGO crisis centers. The 241 Counselling officers attached to the Women and Children’s units provide counseling services for female victims of violence within the Division.
66.The Women’s Bureau of Sri Lanka which has strength at the grass root level conducts awareness programmes for the communities on legal literacy and rights of women and on combating SGBV. With this exposure, women are not hesitating to report the cases to the police or to seek help from referral services that are now widely available. The increased number of cases made to the Police is a result of the exposure made through the awareness programmes conducted at the grass root level.
67.UN agencies have supported the implementation of the NAP to address SGBV. UNDP supported the formulation of the Policy and NAP to address SGBV and facilitated the dissemination of the NAP to relevant Ministries and agencies. UNFPA supported the NAP implementation and setting up a multi-sectoral web based electronic system to monitor the NAP. Further, UNDP has technically facilitated the establishment of a sub national level referral system in relation to SGBV. UNFPA has conducted a service provider mapping exercise in two districts to identify the gaps in service provision and had made recommendations. UNFPA and UNDP have supported capacity building programmes with multi-sectoral service providers and with district and divisional level Child and Women Development Units of MWCA.
Intensify public awareness efforts, through strategic media campaigns and educational programmes to address discriminatory stereotypes against women and gender-based violence
68.School textbooks were reviewed by the National Committee on Women to ascertain how gender was portrayed in the school text books. The findings were shared with the Ministry of Education and with the Minister in charge of the subject. School book writers were exposed to the subject of gender and gender integration in textbooks through a workshop to educate them to reflect on the concepts in developing the material. The Department of Education Publication has reported that the lessons in the textbooks include male and female characters in a balanced manner in almost all the subjects, pictures used in lessons include both genders and subjects such as Civic Education and Health and Physical Education comprise topics related to women’s rights and fulfilling household chores by both parents.
69.Realizing the gender gap in the national Media Policy the MWCA has developed a gender specific concern to be incorporated in the national media policy in consultation with media experts. Among other areas it included non-discrimination in the portrayal of women and girls in media, creating gender sensitivity in media reporting and non-trivializing in reporting violence incidences in media. These concerns were shared with the Ministry of Media and was tabled at the Parliamentary Gender Sectoral Committee for further action.
70.With the support of UNDP, the MWCA has launched a trilingual media campaign to engage men and boys to advance gender equality in Sri Lanka. The campaign consisted of a series of videos and talk shows which have been aired on national media. The campaign has focused on addressing unequal power relations between men and women and transforming traditional norms to ensure that all people are equal and free from discrimination.
Ensure systematic collection and analysis of data on all forms of gender-based violence against women
71.In 2017, the MWCA has initiated a pilot project to develop a unified system to collect data along with the organizations working to address SGBV. The organizations have their own data collection systems developed according to their objectives and activities they perform. It was revealed that developing a unified system was not feasible due to differences in objectives in collecting the data.
72.The Police have their own method of collecting data-centered in the Bureau for the Prevention of Abuse of Children and Women which is connected with all the Police stations in the island. The Bureau maintains a database of the cases reported to each police station across the country. The Sri Lanka Police is most often the first point of contact in Sri Lanka for women seeking redress from acts of violence, including sexual abuse. Each of 492 police stations has a Children & Women Desk headed by a female police officer and responsible for dealing with issues related to women and children, including prevention, awareness among schools and Government institutions.
73.The services of the Toll-free Helpline of the National Committee on Women which has island -wide coverage is available 24 hours of the day. The number of complaints received by the hotline is collected and analyzed quarterly. An increase of cases was observed from 398 in 2014 to 10,675 in 2020.
74.The Gender and Women’s Health Unit of the Family Health Bureau of the Ministry of Health (MoH) also maintains data collected from Care Centres (MithuruPiyasa) which are located in hospitals. The mental Health section of the MoH maintains its own data on SGBV cases. A range of NGOs working with survivors has their own databases. Even though the data is dispersed among the institutions, data is collected on the survivors of SGBV and intervention strategies are often planned accordingly. Recently, in 2019 a national survey on SGBV was conducted by Department of Census and Statistics in collaboration with UNFPA. It can be considered the most recent baseline on status of SGBV in Sri Lanka.
Conflict related sexual and gender-based violence against women
Implement the zero-tolerance policy for sexual violence perpetrated by the army and the police
75.Sri Lanka endorsed the International Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflicts on 12th January 2016. Noting the concerns raised regarding alleged sexual violence perpetrated by the security forces, clear instructions have been issued to all branches of the security forces as well as the police that strict action will be taken against all personnel who engage in human rights violations including torture, rape, sexual and gender based violence. In line with the government’s zero tolerance of sexual and gender-based violence, National Plan of Action to address Sexual and Gender-based Violence has been adopted and is being implemented. Also action has been taken to bring perpetrators of reported incidents of sexual violence by individual members of the security forces to justice.
Reinforce national investigative and prosecutorial capacities as well as witness and victims’ protection and support
76.The Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witness Act no. 4 of 2015 was enacted with the objectives of:
•providing for the setting out of rights and entitlements of victims of crime and witnesses and the protection and promotion of such rights and entitlements; and
•giving effect to appropriate international norms, standards and best practices relating to the protection of victims of crime and witnesses.
77.In order to give effect to the provisions of the Act, the National Authority for the Protection of Victims and Witnesses was established consequently and the Act was later amended by the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses (Amendment) Act. no. 27 of 2017 to facilitate recording of evidence from remote locations.
78.As a measure of addressing the delays of justice, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka provided for an increase of the number of judges of the Superior Courts. Accordingly, the cadre of judicial officers to the Superior Courts was increased. by appointing 6 new judges to the Supreme Court and 14 new judges to the Court of Appeal on 1st December 2020.
79.Please refer the Section 15 on Access to Justice and Section 17 on Women, peace and security – Transitional justice mechanisms.
Carry out a comprehensive mapping of all pending criminal investigations
80.The GoSL is committed to ensuring that a fair trial is conducted with respect all cases of sexual violence. The government is in the process of taking action to expedite the speedy completion of large number of cases of sexual violence pending before the courts.
Trafficking and exploitation of prostitution
Ensure sufficient human, technical and financial resources for the effective implementation and monitoring of the National Strategic Plan to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking (2016)
81.The Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force led by the Ministry of Justice upon the receipt of the appropriate approval from the Cabinet of Ministers, initiated the National Action Plan 2015-2019 to Combat Human Trafficking. As the specified time period lapsed at the end of the year 2019, the stakeholder institutions implemented the action specified in the previous Action Plan in year 2020. The National Action Plan covering the period from 2021-2025 has already been approved by the Cabinet. The previous Action Plan was implemented successfully by the member agencies and despite the challenges managed to achieve the targets specified below:
(a)Establishing a National Authority for the protection of victims of Crimes and Witnesses;
(b)Establishing a Victims of Crime and Witness Assistance and Protection Police Division;
(c)Conducted awareness programmes for public servants on the Witness Protection Act;
(d)Creation of a fund to provide compensation for victims of violence.
Provide continuous capacity-building for law enforcement and other concerned public officials on the early identification, referral, rehabilitation and social integration of trafficking victims
82.Continuous training programmes are being conducted by Sri Lanka Police to enhance the investigative capacity of the officers of Sri Lanka Police with a specific focus on the officials attached to the special investigation division dedicated to Human Trafficking in the CID. In addition, the Attorney General’s Department too conducts capacity building programmes to enhance the skills of the prosecutors specifically in the area of human trafficking. During the year 2020 Sri Lanka prosecutors secured two convictions under section360 (c) which can be highlighted as a significant progress after certain years of time.
Prevent, prosecute and adequately punish traffickers and adopt gender-specific protection measures for women and girl victims
83.Almost all the presumed victims of trafficking are provided with shelter facilities, medical care, counselling services and security by the concerned Authorities upon the necessity. Not only for the local presumed victims of trafficking but foreigners who had become presumed victims of trafficking had been provided with the same facilities and had provided repatriation assistance once the legal proceedings are concluded.
84.In respect of gender-specific protection, a specific shelter had been established by the SMWCDPSE to provide presumed female victims of trafficking with adequate shelter facilities upon the direction of the court for a period specified..
Address the legal gaps that impede the prosecution of traffickers under article 360(c) of the Penal Code
85.Rather than classifying the impediments as ‘legal gaps’ as there are no legal gaps in the existing legislation in prosecuting the perpetrators, it is observed that there are practical difficulties in leading evidence to proceed in the matters initiated under Section 360 (c). They can be specified as the reluctance of the victims to proceed in matter, stigma or due to the fear of the secondary victimization reluctance to testify in Courts, unwillingness to proceed in the legal matter with the fear of losing wages by daily paid employees can be viewed as impediments in proceeding with the prosecution. Such gaps are being addressed.
Systematically collect sex-disaggregated data on both exploitation of prostitution and trafficking in persons
86.Statistics pertaining to the number of victims of trafficking, specific to certain periods are available with the Ministry of Justice.
Intensify efforts aimed at bilateral, regional and international cooperation to prevent trafficking
87.With regard to regional cooperation in the regional investigations, any request from Sri Lanka can be sent in terms of the provisions of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act No. 25 of 2002.
Repeal the Vagrants Ordinance Act
88.Section 3 (2) of the Act provides that “A police officer may arrest, without a warrant every person deemed to be an idle or disorderly person.” There are allegations that police is using the law to arbitrarily arrest women for prostitution and to subject these women to harassment. The Department of Social Services has confirmed that two rounds of discussions to amend the Act have been held under their leadership. The last discussion initiated by the Ministry of Justice was held with the participation of the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, Department of Probation and Child Care Services, Department of Prisons, The Police and the Attorney General’s Department. It was agreed during these discussions to amend all matters affecting violence against women and girls by amending the relevant Act.
Participation in political and public life and in decision-making
Ensure, within a set timeframe, the enactment of the proposed minimum 30% quota for women candidates on nomination papers of political parties
89.A request was made by the MWCA to the Ministry of Provincial Council to provide for 30% quota for women by amending the Provincial Council Election Act No.17. The MWCA submitted a memorandum to the Parliament Sectoral Committee on Gender urging to amend the Parliament Election Act to provide 25% of the party nominations to women and half of the appointments on the national list to be reserved for women. It provided an opportunity to raise awareness among the Parliamentarians on the need for a quota for women in the Parliament.
Adopt measures, including temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4 (1) of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 (2004) on temporary special measures, in the form of legal quota for women, including minority women
90.Out of the 2,200 women elected to local government bodies, 280 comprised of Tamil members. Out of 13 female members served in the last Parliament (2015-2020) two were Tamils. Female minority representation in Parliament is yet to be increased.
Undertake awareness-raising activities targeting the general public and political parties on the importance of the participation of women in decision-making
91.Throughout the reporting period the MWCA and the civil society organizations were conducting training programs for women aspiring to enter politics. After declaring the local government elections, the government and NGOs accelerated the training which resulted in the availability of an adequate number of trained women in the country who could be given nominations at the election. For capacity building of the members of the Parliament and the Local Government, the National Committee on Women (NCW) has delivered programs. The main focus of the National Committee on Women (NCW) has been to encourage women’s participation in politics. NCW has conducted a number of awareness programmes for women representatives at District as well as at national level promoting and inspiring their interest in politics. In order to support this endeavour, NCW has developed training manuals and other material mainly in printed form that had been used in the awareness sessions.
92.One of the major programs is the diploma level study program on Political Science conducted by the University of Peradeniya. The SMWCDPSE in collaboration with the University of Peradeniya continues to conduct a Certificate Course for women leaders and one hundred and eighty womenwere trained including women of minority groups. Also, the Federation of Local Government Authorities of Sri Lanka conducts training programs to the members of the Local Authorities continuously. The Government has made several measures to realize the commitment made to achieve Goal 5.5 of SDGs ensuring women’s full participation in political bodies.
93.In 2021,the Parliament Women Caucus has proposed to the Parliament Select Committee on Electoral Reforms to identify appropriate reforms of the election laws and the electoral system and to recommend necessary amendments that 50% of the national list should be for women and that the representation of women in Parliament, Provincial Councils and Local Government authorities should be increased to 30%.
Establish a disaggregated data collection system on the participation of women representing different minorities in decision-making positions in all sectors and at all levels
94.The MWCA has developed a database to collect information on the women members serving in the Parliament and Local Government bodies and included the capacity-building initiatives conducted with them.
95.Due to consistent policies upholding free education and compulsory enrolment in school, women achieve a high level of education. There continues to be a policy of no-discrimination.
Use temporary special measures aimed at eliminating disparities
96. Under the district quota system introduced in 1973 and 40% are admitted to universities in island-wide merit, 55% on district quota and 5% on the least developed districts. The system is implemented in cognizance of the disparities that may exist in the regional education system. The government continues to make allocations and implement programs to upgrade rural schools, deploy more teachers and assist rural children through the provision of free schoolbooks and uniforms.
Ensure the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of human rights and peace education in the curricula at all levels of education
97.The existing curricula for school children offer them an understanding of the cultural and religious values of different communities. The curricular also promotes the importance of ethnic and religious peace and harmony. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) has included segments on peace and reconciliation in the school curricula in 2017.
Combat discriminatory gender stereotypes in education and mainstream gender into national education policies
98.Policies are being formulated to mainstream gender in the general education sector and gender sensitivity is scanned through the school text books. A special committee is appointed at the Ministry of Education to scan all syllabi, school text books and teacher guides for their gender sensitivity. (Please refer to the section on stereotypes). Effective implementation of the gender sensitive policies of the education sector is mandated to the four State Ministries under the Cabinet Ministry of education. A period poverty programme is implemented by SMWCDPSE and 34 schools were initially given sanitary towels to be distributed among the female students. This programme will be extended to all schools in 2021. Special nutrition programmes and health screenings are conducted in all schools in collaboration between MoH and SMWCDPSE.
Develop and expand gender-sensitive programmes including temporary special measures in high technological skills
99.The national skill development strategies implemented during the reporting period included the formulation of the TVET policy in which gender is a cross-cutting theme, establishment of the National Competency Standards and Curricula in 2018, developing standards for 27 industries or occupation groups, that includes food processing industry, domestic occupations, nursing and paramedics, textile and garment, footwear and leather products that are usually female dominant areas.
100.The total number completed apprenticeship training in NAITA was 15,284 in 2018 The Female participation in apprenticeship was 31.4 %. NAITA has given On the Job and In-plant training in 2018 to a total of 17,743 students comprising 47.7 % of females. Out of the total number of 14,926 completions, 50.4% of females have completed the training. Out of the 61,150 recipients of NVQ certificates in 2018, 39.1% were females.
101.AusAid Skills for Inclusive Growth (ASIG) program supports women to access vocational education and training aligned to skills gaps in the tourism sector.
102.Currently the Skill Development Sector is developing a 10 year National Action Plan for Skill Development. Further, the National Policy Framework of Vistas of Prosperity & Splendour has given priority to skill development through its policy component” Towards a skilled society” and it includes the strategy “A trained, energetic workforce to achieve accelerated development to reduce the unskilled category in the labour force”. As for increasing female entry to the labour force the same national policy and plan have included the following activities:
•Regulate and standardize and expand child care facilities for increasing women participation in the labour force;
•Introduce flexible working arrangement for young mothers;
•Develop a Youth Human Resource data bank;
•Eradicate the culture of ragging from educational institutions;
•Promote home based export-oriented industries.
103.There are no gender barriers to enter courses and women are encouraged to apply for courses by providing adequate facilities in training environment.
Institutionalize age-appropriate comprehensive education on sexual and reproductive health and rights
104.Age-appropriate sexuality education is delivered in schools from grade 6 onwards and comprehensive sexual education for grade 13 students. Module on adolescent reproductive health for vocational trainees is introduced. Sexual and reproductive health information is included in school health websites in Sinhala, Tamil and English languages.
Adopt measures to facilitate women’s entry into traditionally male dominated fields of employment
105.Expansion of education in STEM subjects, introducing the Technology stream in Grade 13 and encouraging girls to follow non-traditional vocations in technical education have provided opportunities for girls to equip with necessary skills needed to enter non-traditional fields of employment.
Implement laws and policies to protect and promote the rights of women working in informal sectors as well as free trade zones
106.The general labour law applies to the employers and employees in the factories and other establishments in free trade zones. Regular labour inspections are carried out in Free trade zones and employees are mainly safeguarded by the Factories Ordinance No. 45 of 1942, Employment of Women Young Persons and Children’s Act No. 47 of 1956, Maternity Benefits Ordinance No. 32 of 1939, Wages Board Ordinance No. 27 of 1941, etc.
107.Addressing SGBV in workplaces has been taken up at multiple forums, with the participation of the Department of Labour. Guidelines were developed jointly with EFC and ILO in 2013 on addressing SGBV in workplaces, which is currently being promoted to be implemented in establishments with EFC membership. Plans are in place to ratify the ILO C190.
108.As for development of a hotline for workers in the free trade zones, 1938 which is NCW hotline is already available, therefore Department of Labour considers that it would be appropriate to promote the same to FTZ. Women &Child Affairs Division and Social Dialogue Division of the DoL are conducting awareness programmes on gender related issues.
109.A review on Domestic Workers has been conducted, for which the Department of Labour has contributed through facilitation of dialogue and forums. Ministry of Labour is in further consultation with relevant stakeholders to amend the respective labour laws regarding domestic workers.
Reduce the gender wage gap by applying regular pay surveys and establishing effective monitoring and regulatory mechanisms for employment and recruitment practices
110.Labour law of Sri Lanka has discarded the practice of gender-based wage discrimination. However, in the Sri Lanka labour force survey, the wage gap is calculated using the data captured through the surveys. Accordingly, the wage gaps for the years 2017, 2018, and 2019 are given below.
Wage gap in the informal sector
Wage gap in the Informal sector
Source: Sri Lanka Labour Force Survey 2017, 2018, 2019
111.The wages board ordinance No. 27 of 1941 has been amended by No. 14 of 2019 amendment and it is in force from 24th September 2019. However, this amendment has not addressed the wage gaps as indicated in the table above in regard to the informal sector.
Collect disaggregated data on sexual harassment in both the public and private sectors, including on the sanctions imposed on perpetrators
112.A circular No;01/2017 dated 27/01/2017 has been issued by the SMWCDPSE.
113.As per the Cabinet Decision no. 16/25/22/740/013 on 6th December 2016 sexual harassment committees were established 10 line Ministries in 2018 with the view of preventing all kinds of harassment in the work place. Awareness programmes are conducted by MWCA encouraging women to make complaints about sexual harassments that have taken place. The Ministry is in the process of preparing a guideline to make the ministries aware on the implementation of anti-harassment committees while ensuring to maintain a decent workplace for all especially for women. Private companies including factories in free trade zones have also established sexual harassment committees. A code of conduct was introduced in 2013 to prevent and address the sexual harassment in the private sector by the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon.
Provide assistance to former female combatants to access appropriate employment and vocational training opportunities free from stereotypes
114.In the National Action Plan for Female Headed Households of the MWCA, ex‑combatants are recognized as a separate group with special vulnerabilities in need of support. The Government has absorbed 669 ex combatants to the Civil Defence Force and out of them 129 are women. In 2017 ONUR has provided livelihood assistance for 750 families of ex‑combatants in Kilinochchi and Mullativu districts.
Ratifying ILO convention number 189 concerning decent work for domestic workers
115.Ministry of Labour is in further consultation with relevant stakeholders to amend the respective labour laws regarding domestic workers.
Amend its legislation to legalize abortion not only in cases in which the life of the pregnant woman is threatened, but also in all cases of rape, incest and severe foetal impairment
116.The attempt was made by the Ministry of Justice to bring changes to the existing legal provisions in the Penal Code to permit the medical termination of pregnancies in the specific circumstances of rape and incest, where pregnancy occurs below the age of 16 (a victim of statutory rape), and in cases of serious foetal impairment. The policy submitted by the Cabinet was subjected to the observation to proceed with the consultation with all religious leaders. The amendment was referred to religious leaders for their observations.
Remove barriers to women’s access to safe abortion services
117.The current law on abortion continues to include the termination of pregnancy to save a life of a woman in a life threatening medical indication. Attempts are being made expand the exception to include rape and congenital anomalies of the foetus.
Ensure adequate budgetary allocations to meet the health needs of women in conflict-affected areas and in the plantations sector, especially for sexual and reproductive health
118.At present, all the health services including curative and preventive services are equally distributed in each and every district of the country. Country is divided into 353 field health divisions named as Medical Officer of Health areas. Public Health Midwife (PHMs) as the grassroots level health care provider at field level, caters to 3000-5000 population with regard to women’s reproductive health needs. PHMs provide a comprehensive package of maternal and child healthcare inclusive of Pre Conception Care, Antenatal care, Pregnancy care, Post-partum care, Well women clinic service, Family Planning, prevention of SGBV and supporting survivors of SGBV. Domiciliary care is provided by the PHMs all over the country.
Ensure access to sexuality information for all women and girls
119.Family Health Bureau of Ministry of Health in collaboration with Health Promotion Bureau of the Ministry of Health develops and disseminates sexual health information applicable to women and girls. These information is accessible for girls and women in the country. It is delivered through different methods as appropriate to the target population. Ex: posters, leaflets, social media campaigns, media workshops, websites, group discussions, workshops, seminars. Women targeted sexual health information is disseminated approaching the life cycle through the Field health staff of Medical Officer of Health areas. Sexual health education is mainstreamed in most of the services including preconception, pregnancy, post-partum, women at age 35 and 45 and at well women clinics.
120.A “National Strategic Plan 2019-2023 Well –Woman Programme” developed by the Family Health Bureau with support from UNFPA Sri Lanka is in place and in line with the National Strategic Framework for Development of Health Services 2016-2025.
Provide region- specific data on the transmission and prevalence of the HIV infection
121.Please refer page 28,29 of the common Core Document.
Women Heads of Households
Establish a disaggregated database on women heads of households in the State party which takes account of the heterogeneity within the group and use this to develop a clear and inclusive categorization of women heads of households to be used uniformly in welfare and resettlement policies and programmes
122.The SMWCDPSE is using the data on WHHs collected by the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS). The Ministry is currently collecting data and information on the WHHs in terms of age, marital status, and income level, number of children, disability and health status to facilitate implementation of the Action Plan on WHHs. The categorization of WHHs by the DCS includes, never married, married, divorced, separated and widowed. It has recognized the diversity within WHHs and the Government is using the data as collected by DCS in planning and policy -making.
Amend the bribery Act to include the offence of sexual bribery to ensuring that perpetrators are adequately punished
123.Despite the Bribery Act is not amended to incorporate Sexual Bribery, several actions were taken to empower women against it. The Bribery Commission has included sexual forms of gratification instead of gratification alone in the National Action Plan for Combatting Bribery and Corruption. A project titled ‘Hidden Challenges’ is being implemented with the support of SMWCDPSE to empower women against sexual bribery. Requests have been made to include sexual bribery in the training modules of the organizations providing training to Government and private sector organizations. Although sexual bribery is not included in the Bribery Act, action could be taken to file a Fundamental Rights petition under Article 11 of the Constitution or file a complaint with the Bribery Commission or the Public Service Commission.
Create a social security system for women headed households
124.There are numerous social security systems in place to cover women in the informal sector. WHHs, depending on the level of their income could enroll under these systems which come under the purview of the Ministry of Social Services. The Samurdhi programme has also social insurance system covering the vulnerable groups that include WHHs.
Ensure equal eligibility criteria for women and men to obtain bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit
125.Both men and women have the same eligibility criteria to obtain bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credits. Exploitation of women by private financial companies as a result of women’s limited access to credit is taken on board for discussion by the Government in 2020 and policy reforms are under discussion.
Introduce low interest or interest-free credit schemes for women heads of households and families living in poverty
126.The Ministry of Samurdhi Development and the Women’s Bureau of Sri Lanka are the main Government institutions which address the credit needs of WHHs. During the period 2016-2020 a total of Rs. 8.51 million was disbursed as micro loans among women under Samurdhi Enterprise Progrmme of the Samurdhi Department. Of the total number of beneficiaries 67% comprised of women. Women engaged in micro enterprises under the categories of agriculture development, livestock development, fisheries development, small industries development are provided with Rs. 50,000 livelihood assistance and technical know-how to develop their enterprises. The Samurdhi banks and Samurdhi Banking societies provide 21 types of loan schemes with different annual interest rates ranging from 4% -12% Repayment period also differs from 1 to 6 years according to the type of loan obtained.
127.During the period 2016-2019 the Women’s Bureau of Sri Lanka has disbursed Rs.29.4m among 2,466 WHHs to engage in livelihood development activities. This is an interest free loan recoverable within a one year period.
128.The Women’s Bureau of Sri Lanka has provided a total of SLRS.201Mn for economic empowerment of WHHs during the reporting period. 1214 women benefitted from this allocation. In addition, SLRS. 30. 9Mn was allocated for WHHs as grants and SLRS. 7.75Mn. as loans.
Established a well – coordinated and organized system for issuing personal documents and property titles to ensure women’s equal access to livelihood assistance, housing and land in their own name
129.Property rights are determined mainly by the Roman Dutch law which stands as the common law of the country that acknowledges equal rights to women. However, land is owned by or given to men as Head of Household which is a customary practice. Please refer section 13 (a) for more information.
130.The MWCA and the civil society organizations had several discussions with the Ministry of Lands requesting to introduce joint ownership to land citing that there are no legal prohibitions to grant state land in joint ownership and in land alienation. However, this matter is yet to be revised but the lobbying is being continued.
The Committee recommends that the State party abolish the Family Background Report (MFE/RAD/10/13), with a view to lifting the sex-specific restrictions on migration
131.Considering the protection and wellbeing of children of female migrant workers, the FBR regulation was introduced in 2013, and it was under scrutiny by many researchers and women’s rights activists. On 22.04.2016 the Ministry of Foreign Employment (MoFE) submitted a Cabinet Paper seeking the removal of the FBR and easing out on the barriers that prevent female migrant workers from getting into foreign employment. However, the Cabinet responded to this paper by appointing a Ministerial Committee in June 2016, to look into the concerns highlighted in the MoFE Cabinet Paper and make recommendations. Committee submitted their report with recommendations to the Cabinet on 22.09.2016. The Cabinet responded to the recommendations and a six month pilot project was implemented incorporating the recommendations. Following the recommendations, an FBR committee was to be established at the Divisional Secretariat Level with Divisional Secretary /Assistant Divisional Secretary as the Chair of the committee. Meanwhile an ILO commissioned qualitative and multi-site research to examine the impact of FBR regulation on different stakeholders engaged in the labour migration process was conducted by Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA).
132.Subsequent to the pilot project and CEPA research, MoFE submitted another Cabinet Paper on 16.07.2018 seeking the removal of FBR. Again a Cabinet Sub-Committee was appointed to make recommendations to the Cabinet and on 09.01.2019 the committee report was submitted to the Cabinet. However, the Cabinet rejected the proposal to remove the FBR on 13.02.2019 highlighting the probable consequences on the young children and directed to simplify the process. At present the system is made to separate the prospective female migrant workers as women with children and without children. The chair of the Divisional FBR committee can give the recommendation directly, exempting the FBR compliance system for the women without children to expedite the departure process. Women with children have to submit the FBR with a care plan which will be examined by the FBR committee at the divisional secretariat level. There is also an appeal system in operation, so that women get a hearing to their pleas.
Establish a mechanism to ensure the implementation, monitoring and assessment of rural economic development investments benefitting women
133.The SMWCDPSE currently monitors the special allocation for women under the budget line of rural economic development investments. The monitoring is carried out through the WDOs attached to the Divisional Secretariats. Data is collected from divisional sources and the progress is reviewed periodically. The SMWCDPSE has developed a system to improve the quality of services of field level officers through enhanced Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning ( MEAL) system making them accountable for the functions carried out. This was included in the job description of the officers of the State Ministry working at the field level.
Use temporary special measures to ensure women’s participation in the leadership of trade unions of rural industries
134.Activities of Trade Unions are governed by the Trade Union Ordinance No.14 of 1935 and these include membership, office bearers, executives and committees. Trade Unions are formed voluntarily as per the requirement of the employees working independently as independent legal entities. The Government as the labour regulator is not in a position to influence the trade unions to increase female participation unless women themselves advocate for reforms. Trade Unions are in operation in the estate sector and in the free trade zones and women employees of these sectors have obtained membership.
Address the poor working conditions in the fisheries industry and provide health and counseling support to women with drug addictions
135.The Ministry of Fisheries, with the help of their institutions such as the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka and National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency address the poor working conditions in the fisheries industry. Moreover, awareness programmes and training programs for rural fisherwomen are annually conducted by the Department of Fisheries and the National Aquaculture Development Authority. Necessary advice and technical support are provided by field officers such as fisheries inspectors and extension officers who are aware of the working conditions of fisherwomen.
Address the pay gap and the denial of maternity leave in rural industries
136.This issue is not addressed yet. However discussions are ongoing for providing protection measures for women in the informal sector. The Maternity Benefits Ordinance No. 32 of 1939 makes provisions prohibiting any employer knowingly employing a woman worker at any time during the period of four weeks immediately following her confinement.
Militarization of land
137.A process is already in place, led by the Ministry of Defence, in order to expedite releasing of remaining private lands occupied by the security forces, in accordance with a proper land release process, without compromising the vital national security concerns of the country. Of the lands previously held by the security forces, i.e. 89.26% of State lands have been released and 92.22% of private lands, have already been released to the civilian owners by 31 December 2019.
138.It is also noted that 98.7% of land in the North and East which had been contaminated due to landmines and Unexploded Explosive Ordnances (UXOs) placed by the LTTE without records in civilian areas, have already been demined, thereby facilitating the process of land return and resettlement. As at present, majority of the private lands occupied by the military at the end of the conflict in year 2009 had been released to legitimate land owned civilians by the military forces through local government authorities.
139.The releasing of the remaining land would be considered, having regard to the strategic requirements of the security forces establishments in the North and the East subject further to the procedures established by law with regard to the vesting of land and the divesting of land in terms of the procedures established by law.
Discriminatory laws in Marriage and Family Relations
140.A Cabinet Memorandum has been submitted on 11th November 2020 to change the minimum age for marriage as 18 years for both male and females. The reforms have also included recruiting women Quazis to Board of Qazi members, as marriage registrars and adjudicators. At the Cabinet meeting held on the 8th March 2021 instructions were given to the Minister of Justice to instruct the Legal Draftsman to draft legislation on (a) age limit of Muslim marriages (b) introduce laws to abolish Quazi courts and prohibit polygamous marriages of Muslim men.
Prepare a unified family code in conformity with the Convention
141.The Civil Law Reforms Committee will consider reforms required for family law.
Amend the General Marriage Registration Ordinance to ensure that Muslim Women have the free choice to opt out from the Muslim Personal law so as to be registered under the general law
142.The committee appointed to look into amendments to the provisions of the MMDA will take into consideration the freedom of individuals to choose between the general law and the personal law.
Ensure that property rights are governed by civil contractual and property law rather than religious law
143.The Civil law reforms Committee is looking into the reform.
Increase the minimum age of marriage for all women in the State party to 18 years of age
144.Please refer the section on Discriminatory Laws.
Eliminate any restrictions on women’s eligibility to be appointed as Qazi, Marriage registrars and adjudicators
145.Laws will be formulated to abolish Quazi courts.
Amend article 363 of the Penal Code to ensure that crime of statutory rape applies to all girls under the age of 16 without exception
146.Once the amendment to Muslim Marriages and Divorce Act is approved a consequential amendment will be brought into amend the Penal Code.
Progress of the CEDAW specific articles
CEDAW articles 2 – 4: Elimination of discrimination, right to fully participate in all fields and temporary special measures
147.Article 12(1) and 12 (2) of the Fundamental Rights Chapter in the Constitution guarantee the right to equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex. The Women’s Charter is still continuing to be the policy on women’s rights which was prepared based on women’s rights and nondiscrimination enshrined in CEDAW substantively and inclusively. The Women’s Charter outlines seven areas through a rights- based approach endorsing the responsibility of the state to take necessary measures in realizing equality for women.
148.Since the policy on women was adopted in 1993 and in view of the changes occurred in the field of gender during the period, and action has been taken to develop a new policy on women to suit the current context in 2019. It adopts Principles that uphold women’s rights enshrined in CEDAW, Beijing Platform for Action and Sustainable Development Goals.
149.In pursuance to the efforts made by the women’s groups and the government agencies it has been possible to receive a quota for women in the local government bodies by amending the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act, No. 1 of 2016.
150.The Right to Information Act No 12 was enacted in 2016 to provide right of access to information. This is expected to increase citizens’ participation of public life and promotion of accountability and good governance amongst the public authorities.
Article 5: Elimination of prejudices and customary and other practices
151.Article 12 (2) of the Constitution stipulates that ‘no citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion language caste, sex political opinion place of birth or any such grounds” It is clear that the grounds of non-discrimination set out in this Article are not exhaustive and could cover differences pertaining to sexual orientation as well. The Subcommittee on Fundamental Rights appointed by the Constitutional Assembly in 2017 addresses sexual orientation as a ground of non-discrimination. The Sub Committee Report states that no person shall be arbitrarily discriminated against on any ground including race, gender, sex, sexual orientation gender identity”.
152.The SDG 5.3.2 focusses on the elimination of all harmful practices including female genital mutilation. The issue which was hidden has emerged recently in the public and women’s groups are having public discussions on its consequences. Muslim women’s groups have approached state authorities and are lobbying with the Government to take necessary action to mitigate the situation and to be recognized as a crime. It has become a public health issue as well as a child abuse issue. The Section 308(A) (1) of the Penal Code states that any person who causes willful assault, ill- treatment, neglect or injury to the health of a person under the age of eighteen commits the offence of cruelty to children punishable with imprisonment not exceeding ten years and compensation to the victim.
153.In elimination of discrimination, the National Committee on Women successfully advocated for the removal of Column 6 of the Birth Certificate which is on marital status of the parents and was referred to the Parliamentary Sectorial Committee on Gender. This removal was made based on the difficulties faced by the mother who becomes pregnant as a result of rape, agony faced by the mother in school admissions and in employment and the stigma faced by both the mother and the child.
Article 6: Trafficking and exploitation of women
154.Trafficking is often linked with commercial sexual exploitation and labor migration. The Government is concerned about eliminating trafficking and has taken efforts to convict traffickers, identifying more trafficking victims and continuing with training and awareness - raising for Government officials, and civil society organizations. Trafficking cases are dealt under Penal Code provision 360 (C) and in line with the Convention on Preventing and combatting Trafficking in Women and Children. The SOPs are implemented to create a victim centered approach in referral, provision of assistance, protection of victims of human trafficking.
155.National Anti-Human Trafficking Task force was established under the leadership of Ministry of Justice with representatives from 17 Government institutions. Monthly meetings of the task force is conducted for sharing information among the members and disseminate best practices. The Task Force has developed a five-year Action Plan to monitor and combat human trafficking which was approved by the Cabinet. In 2020 the Judiciary issued a directive to all High Courts to expedite disposal of human trafficking cases.
156.The Police continued to conduct anti - trafficking training for new recruits. The Trafficking Task force members facilitate capacity development programs for their officers and the public. Media campaigns are also conducted to send the message across to the public by the SMWCDPSE which runs a shelter for women victims of trafficking. Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) conducts awareness programs for prospective migrant workers within Sri Lanka and in service migrant workers at some diplomatic missions.
157.SLBFE is making efforts to curb unauthorized migration practices in which women have become victims. SLBFE has established a new unit to deal with complaints of migrant workers. After scrutinizing the facts of such complaints, the cases are then referred to the CID. The SLBFE operates 15 short term shelters at Sri Lankan diplomatic Missions in 14 countries for female migrant workers in distress. The shelters have served 11,215 migrant workers from April to November 2019 which is an increase from 1806 in 2018.
Article 7: Participation in political and public life and in decision making
158.Women continue to enjoy rights equal with men, both in political and public life. Accordingly, the number of women political representatives, women’s participation in the formulation of government policy, holding public office and performing public functions at all levels of the Government has increased.
159.Article 12 (2) of the Constitution guarantees equal rights for women to be elected to political bodies. The National Human Rights Action Plan (2017-21) includes obtaining a quota for women in political bodies, enhancing skills of potential women candidates, and development of guidelines for nominations and electing women to parliament, provincial councils and local authorities. With strong lobbying of MWCA and civil society groups, the Local Authority’s Elections (Amendment) Act no. 16 of 2017 incorporated a 25% quota for women in Local Government Authorities. As a result representation of women in the local government bodies increased from 2% to 22% at the elections held in 2017. It was an increase from less than 100 to 2200 seats. Altogether 14,826 female candidates contested at the elections.
160. As indicated in the National Human Rights Action Plan MWCA developed a set of criteria for selection of women candidates for the local government elections and forwarded to the political parties to consider in the selection of female candidates.
161.During the reporting period three elections have been held: Parliament election (2020), Presidential elections (2019) and Local government election (2018). Women’s political consciousness is reflected in the interest shown in voting which is estimated to be more than 50% almost in all the elections according to the records of the Election Commission. One important feature in the Presidential Elections was that a female candidate contested at the Presidential election after 20 years and secured the 7th place out of 35 contestants. At the Parliamentary elections held in August 2020, 59 female candidates contested, 8 got elected and 4 female candidates were selected on the national list. Female representation in the current Parliament is 5.3%.
162.In response to discrimination against women in politics, the women’s groups and the government have raised awareness on the need to increase women’s political participation by using different means such as; workshops, print and electronic media, poster and sticker campaigns. Workshops both at the national and district level were held to motivate and encourage women to enter into politics. The MWCA and civil society organizations conducted training programmes for the female candidates who contested at the Local Government elections covering all the districts including the North and East. A training needs assessment of female members of the local government bodies was conducted to identify their training needs for capacity building and to respond to the challenges they face while working with male counterparts. Voter education programmes covering democracy and voter rights were conducted for the women’s groups throughout the island in collaboration with the Election Commission.
163.The SMWCDPSE in collaboration with the University of Peradeniya continues to conduct a Certificate Course for women leaders and more than five hundred were trained including women of minority groups. Out of the total number of women participated in the trainings, 60 have got elected to the Local Government bodies. Networking between the government and the civil society organizations was intensified and a Forum was formed to plan and carry out activities according to the strengths of each organization.
164.It is to be noted that when it comes to professional services, participation of women is increasing, but it us purely based on merit, not by quotas on the basis of gender. On the other hand, active leadership roles in politics does not seem to be a preferred choice by majority of women.
165.The Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS) is the largest service in Public Service and 54.44 per cent of the total service members were women in 2017.
166.Most of the high-level decision makers are from the Sri Lanka Administrative Service; both men and women have equal opportunities to enter the service as they are recruited through written examinations. In the All-Island Services, promotions are given according to seniority and merit. Recently the number of women entering the Sri Lanka Administrative Services has surpassed that of men as they have performed better at the competitive examination. They predominate in Grade 11 and 111 of the Service. As a result, the number of women functioning as Divisional Secretaries has risen from 31.7% in 2016 to 37% in 2018. Higher educational achievements of females also have contributed to realizing this status.
167.According to the Labour Force Survey 2019, from the category of Managers, Senior Officials and Legislators, 8.4 per cent were female while 7.6 per cent were male, which is an increase of female representation from 4.9% in 2016.
168.There is a decrease in the number of women appointed to the Supreme Court and High Courts in 2017 compared with figures of 2014. However, female judges represent higher echelons in the Justice sector. Please refer to Part I Common Core Document for details and statistics.
169.The number of female Principals is comparatively low compared to the large number of females in the teaching cadre.
170.The above analysis reveals that there is a gender gap at the highest decision-making level but the gap is narrowing down in civil service and at the junior levels. The societal norms and practices still impede women’s upward mobility.
Article 8: Equal rights to represent Government
171.The status remains the same.
Article 9: Equal rights regarding nationality
172.The status remains the same.
Article 10: Equal rights to education
173.The free education policy adopted since 1945 in Sri Lanka with the inclusion of numerous incentives has provided equal access to education cutting across all economic strata of the country. Participation in education has been enhanced further by regulations rendering education compulsory for the age group of 5-16 years. The Government Policy Framework Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour has emphasised creating a knowledge-based education and restructuring/ reforming of school education. The strategies in order to achieve the objectives include: introduction of a single curricular system, quality improvement, teacher training and professional development and infrastructure development in the school system.
174.There have been several donor-funded projects implemented by the Ministry of Education. The most recent Programme, the Education Sector Development Programme (2013 -2018) focussed attention on promoting participation of girls in the new Technology stream and incorporating gender indicators in management and monitoring systems.
175.Sri Lanka has achieved near universal enrolment in basic and secondary education. Female student enrolment in the formal education is almost equal to male students at primary and junior secondary levels. Girls out number boys in secondary and more prominent in senior secondary level which is 55.6 %(2020). Please refer to Part I Common Core Document for details and statistics. Male school dropout rate is high as they have easy access to employment. Female literacy rate is 92.9% (2019) almost equal to male literacy rate of 93.6%.
176.The non-schooling children are from the poorest families living in the urban and rural areas and the plantations and children with disabilities. Children from the plantations who were disadvantaged earlier, have a high participation rate at present in primary education. Education performance indicators for girls are improving and performance in public examinations is better than boys.
177.In Grade 12 and 13 girls are very much overrepresented in Arts and biological science streams, while there are more boys in physical sciences and in the technological stream. Girls represent one third of those in physical sciences. A major reason for the highest enrolment of girls in the Arts stream at A/L is that the distribution of schools offering science education as the schools are located in urban and semi urban areas.
178.In order to address the disparities in education during the period 2016-2020 the government has implemented the programme “Nearest school is the best School” to provide equal opportunities in education for all and transforming selected schools in each Divisional Secretarial division as super schools, thereby controlling the population in over-populated popular urban schools. This programme envisages developing 600 schools to represent each divisional secretariat, 1200 schools with advance level classes that are not included in other development programmes, 776 schools as part of a secondary school development programme, and 3577 schools under a primary schools’ development project.
179.The Ministry of Education has introduced a Technology stream for A/L students in 2013. Although the enrolment of women in vocational and technical institutes has increased the skills they obtain from these institutes are limited to those occupations which are socially determined as feminine work. Programmes are ongoing through media and awareness-raising and career counselling encouraging women to participate in non-traditional vocations.
180.According to the 2015/16 and 2016/17 university entrance statistics, the proportion of females in engineering is 22-24% while in IT, Technology Science, Architecture the average is between 40-50 percent. However, entrance of females to the Arts stream is more than 80%. The distribution of females in faculties reflects the impact of gender role stereotype internalized by girls. Of those who entered University in 2019 women comprised 64% of the total student population.
Article 11: Equal rights to employment
181.Economic empowerment of women through providing support services is a key strategy envisaged in the government policy document, Vistas and prosperity and Splendour.
182. The female labour force participation rate in 2019 has been recorded as 34.5 percent. The gender gap is wide partly as women working in the informal sector is not visible in the official statistics.Of the total female employment,51% are working in the informal sector. Women comprised of 28.4% in the Agriculture sector,27.6% in the Industrial sector and 47.1% in the Services sector. Despite less female participation in the labour force women’s contribution to the economy is high in sectors: export garment industry, plantation sector and labour migration.Female employment in the government sector (19.9%) has surpassed that of men (12.2%).The percentage of women holding managerial positions in All Island Services is also on the increase.
183.The national unemployment rate was estimated to be 5.4% in 2019 of which is 6.7% for women and 3.4% for men. The labour force participation of women differs considerably across education levels. The unemployment of educationally qualified females is higher than that of males. According to a study by the Institute of Policy Studies, labour force participation of highly skilled women is on par with that of males while the labour force participation of lower skilled women lags behind.
184.The Maternity Benefit Ordinance provide protection to women from dismissal during pregnancy and support their family responsibilities by the provision of maternity leave and benefits. Female officers working in the government sector are entitled to 84 days of full pay maternity leave while those in the private sector are given only 48 days. To reduce the anomaly, the 2019 Budget has proposed to support working-mothers in the private sector by encouraging the private sector to grant fifty per cent of the salary and mandatory 3 months maternity leave as an additional deduction in calculating their cooperate taxation, subject to a maximum of Rs. 20,000 per employee per month.
185. Directives have been issued by the government to set up child-care centres at workplaces and funds have been released by the Treasury to the MWCA for the refurbishing of day care centres during 2017 and 2018. The private sector has been requested to put-up day-care centres and a loan scheme was in operation for furthering the task. Childcare development was included in the Sri Lanka Vision 2025 and in 2019 Budget. The Early Childhood project of the SMWCDPSE funded by the World Bank has made a major contribution to the sector through construction of new centres, facility improvement, teacher training, provision of teaching-learning material and other measures to improve the quality of preschool education. The Project has also embarked on a programme to renovate 600-daycare centres in the plantation sector. The Government has introduced the National Guidelines for Child Care Centres in 2017 to provide a framework to regulate the daycare centres in operation.
186.The existing social security system is comprised of fairly well-established schemes of old-age pensions and lump sum payment at retirement for public officers and workers in the formal sector and their dependents. Around 34% of the Sri Lankan population receives benefits from social protection systems. Public service employees and their families are covered by three main schemes managed by the Department of Pensions. They are Public Servants Pension Scheme, Public Servants Provident Fund and the Widows and Orphans Pension scheme. Payments to beneficiaries of the Employment Trust Fund and Employment Provident Fund are applicable for workers in the formal private sector.
Article 12: Equal rights to access health care
187.Women and men have equal access to free of charge state health services in Sri Lanka. Ministry of Health at central level is responsible for maintaining the health services of the country, while the nine Provincial Ministries are responsible for effective implementation of the services in their respective provinces. A dominant feature of the health policy in Sri Lanka is the diffusion of health services throughout the country, which provides institutional and field health care including domiciliary care. Universal access to free state health services, and the availability of a well-established network of state hospitals in the curative sector, and a package of Maternal and child health (MCH) services at the field level that extends to the level of domiciliary care established over 8 decades have had a positive impact to improve the health status of women of the country.
188.By 2018, programme had reached almost all families in the country forming a well-organized health care system with 353 Medical Officers of Health (MOH) areas.
189.Sri Lanka provides comprehensive and evidence-based services for all healthcare needs related to pregnancy, confinement and postpartum period. All these services are provided free of charge in the government sector. Preparation of a girl for motherhood is addressed in the life cycle approach commencing in the childhood and focused services during pre-pregnancy care.
190.During pregnancy and postpartum period, women receive domiciliary care from Public Health Midwives and clinic care from Medical Officers and Consultants. Components of care received include history taking and counselling, examinations, urine and blood investigations for anemia, hyperglycaemia in pregnancy, HIV and syphilis. Coverage of these exceeds 90%. In 2019 WHO validation was granted for ‘Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis’ in Sri Lanka. Dating scans are conducted for the vast majority. Maternal weight gain and fetal growth are monitored and haematinics and calcium supplements as well as a food supplement are provided to all pregnant women during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters and first six months postpartum. A basket of food items are also provided during antenatal and postnatal periods for a duration of ten months. 99.9% of deliveries in Sri Lanka take place in institutions.
191.When providing above services, women are not discriminated based on marital status, ethnicity, geography, social class or any other non-medical factor.
192.It is significant that the system of MCH services has evolved as a part of the general health services in the country. Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child Adolescent and Youth Health programme (RMNCAYH) has been evolved over many decades. By 2018, RMNCAYH programme has reached almost all families in the country forming a well-organized healthcare system with 353 Medical Officer of Health (MOH) areas.
193.The Maternal and Child Health policy of Sri Lanka (2012), in its’ 8th goal declares promotion of reproductive health of men and women assuring gender equity and equality. Family planning programme has been integrated with MCH services since 1960’s, and included in the Maternal and Child Health policy of Sri Lanka. The policy of free family planning services is implemented for all temporary and permanent family planning methods. The contraceptive prevalence rate, using any method is over 64% (DHS, 2016).
194.A “National Strategic Plan 2019-2023 Well –Woman Progrmme” developed by the Family Health Bureau with support from UNFPA Sri Lanka is in place and is in line with the National Strategic Framework for Development of Health Services 2016-2025, the National Multi-sectoral Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2016-2020,the National Policy and Strategic Framework on Cancer Prevention and ControlSri Lanka 2015 and the commitments of the Government to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
195.Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the late 1980s, Sri Lanka has been classified as a country with low level HIV epidemic. Even among key populations, HIV prevalence has not exceeded beyond 5%. In this background, Sri Lanka has been exploring the possibility of achieving the targetsof ending AIDS epidemic targets earlier than the global timeline. Results of national estimates indicate that there are 3600 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Sri Lanka in 2019. Of this estimate, 3,550 are adults who are 15 years and older, and the male to female ratio was 2.93. The trend of PLHIV is relatively stable in the past five years implying the state of balance between new infections and AIDS related deaths. (Please refer to Common Core Document for details).
Article 13: Equal rights in areas of economic and social life
196.This is addressed in Article 11 and 14.
Article 14: Equal rights to benefit from rural development
197.More than 70% of the population live in rural areas and majority of them are working in the agriculture sector. The poverty rate in the rural areas is 4.3% compared to the national average of 4.1.%. Poverty rates among rural households engaged in agriculture are higher than that of those working in the non-agricultural sector. The labour force survey of 2019 indicates that the informal sector is comprised of 53.7% females and 63.3% males. In the survey 64% rural females were classified as being economically inactive mainly engaged in housework and 6.8 % classified as unpaid family workers.
198.The Policy framework of the government ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ highlights to provide support services for women engaging in self-employment activities.
199.The main government programme extended to rural areas is the “Samurdhi” development programme reaching 1.8 million people in the country. The programme comprises provision of consumption grants, savings and credit for entrepreneurial activities and rehabilitation and country’s infrastructure development. There are 1074 SamurdhiBanks and 331 SamurdhiBank societies are in operation island-wide to provide micro credit for low-income families. In the Samurdhi programme the total number of Samurdhi beneficiaries accounts to 1,745,798 beneficiaries, out of which, 604,574 are women. Women predominates in Samurdhi Banks and currently 2,922,731 are enrolled as members of the SamurdhiBanks.
200.The female members of the Samurdhi societies are working on social enhancement of the communities which include eradicating rural drug menace, addressing psychosocial needs, promoting organic food consumption, supporting housing development of low income families and involving children in national level cultural competitions.
201.Women’s Bureau of Sri Lanka facilitates social and economic empowerment of women through provision of awareness and other socio economic support to rural women. The Women’s Bureau has set up women’s action societies totalling to 12,732 in 2020. These societies have been federated to 315 divisional federations and 24 district federations.
202.The Women’s Bureau is engaged in providing credit and skills training for women to undertake self-employment activities. The Women’s Bureau provides credit facilities for self-employment activities through revolving credit scheme, “Apeksha” credit scheme and “Wantha Shakthi” banks. During the period 2017-2020 the Women’s Bureau has dispersed Rs.mil. 178 among 14,233 women of low income families to be engaged in self-employment.
203.Obtaining micro-credit by rural women from unauthorized lenders has worsened their income level. and are facing difficulties in settling the installments. To assist women caught up in the debt trap, the government has approved the write off of non-consumption loans below Rs.100,000 given to women by all registered finance companies.
204.The Department of Agrarian Services has established 24,007 Women’s Agricultural Organizations known as SITHAMU at the village level for social and economic empowerment of women engaged in agricultural pursuits. A total of 588,193 women have enrolled as members. Women are encouraged to engage in organic farming, promote savings, group formation increasing knowledge and attitudes and leadership development. There are 45,233 women entrepreneurs attached to this programme and Peoples Bank has released loan facilities up to Rs 893,756,046 to improve their agricultural pursuits. The Department has established 21 restaurants all over the country to improve the living standards of the members of these organizations and to develop their entrepreneur skills while providing market facilities.
205.The policy of the MWCA on allocating 25% of the project investment on rural economic development for women has impacted positively on women’s income in the rural sector. In 2018 line ministries and provincial councils have allocated Rs. 3950 million for women’s projects, while Rs. 2830 million has been allocated in 2019.
206.There are three types of social insurance programmes in operation covering the informal sector which includes Farmer’s pension and social benefit scheme, Fisherman’s pension and social benefit security scheme, Self-employed, pension and social benefit scheme. However, these schemes are voluntary and limited in personal coverage. The government also provides monthly cash transfer programmes for low-income families and disability payment for elders over 70 years as part of the social protection for vulnerable groups. The coverage of elderly females is 46.4%.
Article 15 and 16: Equal rights with regard to legal capacity in civil matters and Equal rights in respect of marriage and family relations
207.While the status of the general marriage law in Sri Lanka remains the same, efforts are being made to advocate changes to personal laws applicable to different Communities in Sri Lanka through sensitization and dialogue with the respective communities and civil society organisations.
208.The Report of the Committee appointed by the Ministry of Justice in 2009 to consider and propose reforms to Muslim matrimonial law and to upgrade Quazi Courts was released recommending changes to minimum age of marriage, legal requirement for the women’s consent for the marriage, legal requirement for wife’s/wives’ consent in instances of polygamy, eliminating differences in divorce procedure between men and women and appointment of women as Quazis and Marriage Registrars.
209.Following the appointment of the Cabinet Sub-Committee to make proposals with regard to amending the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act in October 2016, a report on the recommendations of key Muslim women’s rights activists, civil society organizations and religious leaders was submitted to the Cabinet Sub-Committee.
210.Amending the MMDA as per the Committee recommendations was taken up for discussion at the Parliament Sectoral Committee on Gender in July 2019. The Parliamentarians decided to amend several core articles in the MMDA and a proposal was handed over to the Minister of Justice for further action. Accordingly, a Cabinet Paper has been submitted including the proposals that the minimum age of marriage for both the bride and the groom should be 18 years and that the bride should sign the register as a sign of her consent. The Cabinet of Ministers have approved the proposals in August 2019.
211.Amending MMDA was taken up by women’s groups with the present government in 2020. Subsequent to wide- ranging discussions held with stakeholders, academics and jurists the Ministry of Justice has decided to submit a Cabinet Memorandum to amend the Act including minimum age of marriage, registration requirements, qualification for appointment of Quazis, consent for Marriage etc. At the Cabinet meeting held on the 8th March 2021 the Cabinet considered the recommendations made by the Cabinet Sub Committee appointed and has instructed the Minister of Justice to give directions to the Legal Draftsman(a.)to draft legislation on the age limit of Muslim marriages (b) introduce laws to abolish Quazi courts and prohibit polygamous marriages of Muslim men.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
212.During the reporting period the Government continues to make progress in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in social, economic and political fields through law reforms, formulating gender responsive policies and action plans by addressing gender related issues.
213.In line with the Beijing Platform of Action and relevant declarations, a draft National Women’s Rights Policy was developed during the reporting period The policy focuses on women’s human rights and on the principles of equality and nondiscrimination substantively and inclusively in areas of: Education and Information Communication technology, Health and Wellbeing, Law and Administration of Justice, Labour, Media, Environment and Political participation. It provides an overarching framework to guide the process of developing laws, policies, programs, and projects and mechanism which will ensure equal rights and opportunities for women in all spheres encompassing all structures of government as well as in workplace, the community and family.
214.A Cabinet approved circular was disseminated to all sectoral ministries and related agencies to guarantee the collection of age and sex disaggregated data and establishing a gender sensitive monitoring system to track the Government expenditure and equal distribution of benefits to all.
215.The Policy Framework and National Plan of Action to address Sexual and Gender Based Violence was developed and the approval of the Cabinet was obtained that included a direction to ensure allocations for the effective implementation of the National Action Plan from the medium-term budgetary framework. The thirteen-line Ministries responsible for the implementation of the Plan have included activities and allocated budgets that was secured through the Treasury. The review of the Multi Sectoral Action Plan has revealed that more than 60% of the activities stipulated in the plan have been accomplished by the respective Ministries.
216.The National Human Rights Action Plan contains provisions to address issues related to law reforms, redressing issues related to the war affected women, issues of female employment and enhancing institutional mechanisms and ministerial responsibilities in regard to gender equality and protection of women human rights. A monitoring system was in place to track the progress.
217.Gender mainstreaming is a strategy endorsed in the Beijing Platform for Action to ensure the advancement of gender equality and it was adopted by the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs by introducing a policy for Gender Mainstreaming in all sectoral ministries. This policy include: establishment of gender focal points, gender responsive budgeting and establishment of anti-sexual harassment committees. The gender mainstream process has also facilitated in mainstreaming gender equality in sectorial policies such as National Disaster Policy, National Human Resource Policy, National SME policy and the TVET policy.
218.The Government concerned on repealing discriminatory provisions in the law has taken measures to advocate changes to personal laws through sensitization and dialogue with respective communities including civil society organizations. Committees have been appointed to recommend changes to the laws with special reference to family laws. Cabinet approval was obtained to remove discriminatory provisions in the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act which includes Age of Marriage, abolishing Quazi courts and prohibiting polygamous marriages.
219.With the amendment made to Local Government Election Act providing a 25% quota for women the female representation of Local Government Bodies has increased to 22% in the elections held in 2017.
220.The policy introduced by the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs to allocate 25% of annual rural development budget for economic empowerment of women has impacted positively on women’s income as revealed by the surveys conducted. There are numerous credit programs in operation to provide livelihood support for informal sector women to bring them into the fold of national economy and promote economic independence while contributing to poverty alleviation.
221.During the period 2016-2020 the government along with civil society organizations and international community have continuously supported to rebuild the war affected areas and to restore the economy, improve infrastructure and develop livelihoods. Several policy initiatives, legal enactments, action plans and programs have been introduced since then to improve the situation of those affected with special focus on women. The Report of the Consultative Task Force on Reconciliation contains recommendations to safeguard the rights of women by addressing the grievances of all victims including Truth Seeking, Reparation .and measures for non-recurrence. Institutions, namely the Office of Missing Persons, Office of Reparation were established to address the needs of those affected while the Organization of National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) concentrate on socio economic needs of the affected.
222.The policy of the Government is to reduce all kinds of Sexual and Gender Based Violence against women and girls. Numerous institutions are providing number of support services and interventions for the victims of violence in the form of counselling, legal aid, safe homes, referral pathway mechanisms and hotlines. While these services are available at the National level, they are more prominent at the Divisional level with the contribution of the Women and Child Unit of MWCA, health professionals in state hospitals, women and child desks of the police stations and Attorneys at Law at the Legal Aid Commission. Community awareness programs are widely available while Human rights gender equality are addressed in the capacity development programs of law enforcement officers. All these measures have contributed to increase awareness on Violence Against Women resulting in increase of reporting VAW incidences.
223.The Ministry of Education has taken action to include gender awareness in almost all school textbooks. A media policy reflecting women’s concerns was drafted for inclusion in the national media policy. Media campaigns are being launched to transform traditional norms to ensure that all are equal and free from discrimination.
Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals
224.Sri Lanka shows significant progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is revealed by the 2021 Global Sustainable Development Report. According to the Report, Sri Lanka has improved its global rank by 7 positions and is placed at 87th place out of 165 countries in 2021. Overall Country Score has increased to 68.1, which is well above the regional average. In 2019 and 2020, Sri Lanka ranked at 93rd and 94th places respectively with scores of 65.8 and 66.9 respectively. No Poverty (Goal 1), Quality Education (Goal 4) and Climate Action (Goal 13) are important areas where Sri Lanka is maintaining steady progress.
225.In addition, improvement of the ratio of female-to-male mean years of education (contributing to our achievements of gender equality (Goal 5)) and improvement of Property Rights Score from 3.9 in 2019 to 4.2 in 2020 ((Property Rights (worst 1–7 best) under Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) are some of the notable improvements made by Sri Lanka during the reporting period.
226.Gender Equality is identified as a cross cutting issue and is crucial for achieving the SDG overall framework. Universal access to free health and education services has contributed to gender parity in many areas envisaged in SDGs.
227.The Maternal Mortality rate has declined to 33.7 per 100,000 live births which is below the SDG target 3.1.Achieving SDG target 3.2, under 5 mortality rate and the neonatal mortality rate in Sri Lanka were 10and 5.8 per 100,000 live births respectively.
228.According to the Health sector data, the proportion of women of reproductive age, who have their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods has increased from 78.5% in 2016 to 79.5% in 2020.This shows that Sri Lanka is progressing towards achieving SDG Target 3.7 on universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services by 2030.
229.In line with SGD target 4.1, 4.2 and 4.5 gender equality prevails in primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. The net primary enrolment rate is 99%. In early childhood education, 76% of 3–5-year-olds are undergoing some form of education. Based on the data that is available with the Ministry of Education, the participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age) for males and females is 97.4% and 98.1% respectively. This shows that Sri Lanka has made tremendous progress in achieving SDG target 4.2 in ensuring that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education.
230.According to the most recent data, SDG Indicator 5.2.1: the proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner has decreased from 16.6% in 2016 to 14.5% in 2019, and the proportion of women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to sexual violence by persons other than an intimate partner is only 0.4% in 2019. This shows a significant progress towards eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres in Sri Lanka by 2030 (in keeping with Sri Lanka’s commitments under SDG 5.2
231.SDG 8 is yet to be achieved since the country’s female labour force participation remains at 34.5% while 51% of the total employed women work in the informal sector. Further, unemployment rate among women is at 6.7%. Through the implementation of social security systems and through poverty reduction polices of the government, Sri Lanka has taken actions to reduce the poverty gap given in Goal1. Poverty among females is marginally lower than that of males.The proportion of the total female population below the povertyline is 0.70%, while about 2.8% Female Head Households were below the poverty line.83% of women have access to financial institutions while 40% of the women belonging to the poorest category has access to them.
232.Women represent only 5.3% in Parliament and 22% in local government bodies, creating a gap in achieving SGD 5.5.In line with SDG 5.b, computer literacy among females account for 30.4% while digital literacy rate is 46.2%.
233.The government of Sri Lanka considers the SDGs as a priority and has incorporated the key areas in the Public Investment Plan in order to ensure their realization by 2030. In addition, the Government has established an inter-ministerial Steering Committee under the leadership of the Prime Minister to mobilize all government institutions around SDGs with the aim of accelerating SDG implementation. The Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka, as the nodal agency for coordination, fecilitation and monitoring of SDG implementation in Sri Lanka has developed and launched a national SDG data portal, an integrated monitoring and reporting platform on SDG progress.
234.The Government has taken action to fulfill the commitments enshrined in the Constitution and international treatise on gender equality and empowerment of women through law reforms, developing policies and action plans, adopting measures for mitigating violence against women, and introducing affirmative action for eliminating stereotypes. The civil society groups have raised their voice on gender issues through advocacy and awareness campaigns to obtain community support which has contributed to improving the situation. However, affirmative action is needed to ensure the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedom on basis of equality. Hence addressing the gaps in female labour force participation, introducing protection measures covering women in informal sector, increasing female political participation are key to achieving substantive equality enshrined in Goal 5 of Sustainable Development Goals.