Friday, January 28, 2011

Sri Lanka: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considers report of Sri Lanka

Source: United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has considered the combined fifth to seventh periodic report of Sri Lanka on how that country is implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Introducing the report, Kshenuka Senewiratne, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that following the 30-year terrorist conflict, the State had been compelled to assume an expanded and formidable task of maintaining national security, law and order. Following a lengthy period of negotiations with the terrorist group which had lost its credibility over time, the country's struggle had finally triumphed over the fighters in May 2009 and it had embarked on the task of rebuilding the nation. In Sri Lanka, women and children were those who suffered the most. The report was presented to show how the Government had sought to respect CEDAW during these challenging years. The current floods in Sri Lanka had destroyed all infrastructure in the east and north east regions, rendering many citizens homeless and this had had a huge impact on women. The country had however continued its efforts to earnestly respect CEDAW recommendations.

Ms. Senewiratne informed the Committee that the process adopted in formulating the National Human Rights Action Plan was significant in that it placed reliance on a consultative approach that sought to include civil society, with one of the thematic areas being "women". This had identified issues affecting women including health, violence against women, political representation, economic empowerment, employment, women in the informal sector, women migrant workers, women in the rural and plantation sectors, women affected by conflict, the environment, and discrimination against women. In the post conflict era the Government had engaged in rehabilitation efforts of internally displaced persons, including female ex-combatants and their reinsertion in the society. Among the most salient concerns of the Government, the delegation underlined the need to improve in various areas such as the low participation of women in politics, violence against women, protection of women from violence in former conflict areas, women migrant workers, economic empowerment of rural women, unemployment of women and the issue of female headed households.

Questions and issues raised by Experts included questions regarding the absence of specific laws prohibiting discrimination against women, concrete data pertaining to the policy in place which dealt with the return and resettlement of internally displaced persons, especially women, clarifications of the concept of "community", Sri Lanka's commitment to adhere to CEDAW recommendations, and the Government's intended action regarding the alarming statistics about violence against women which went unreported. The delegation was also asked to explain why Sri Lanka still had the lowest participation of women in politics in spite of having produced the first female Prime Minister in the world in 1931, and whether the Government encouraged a policy of appointing competent women to key posts of responsibility in order to change the stereotype views about their capabilities as leaders.

In preliminary concluding remarks, Silvia Pimental, the Committee Chairperson, acknowledged the efforts made by the delegation of Sri Lanka to answer the questions of the Committee as well as their efforts to implement CEDAW's recommendations. She commended the State party for its commitment and encouraged it to address the recommendations of the Committee which would subsequently be communicated to them in order to move forward with their efforts to promote the condition of women in Sri Lanka.

Also in concluding remarks, Dhara Wijayatillake, Secretary at the Ministry of Technology and Research of Sri Lanka, thanked CEDAW members for the fruitful discussions and assured all that they would continue to improve their efforts. She promised that the delegation would carry home the message and recommendations and they would continue to improve on their efforts for the benefit of women.

The delegation of Sri Lanka included representatives of the Ministry of Child Development and Women's and Affairs, the Ministry of Technology and Research, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Rehabilitation Commission, the Attorney General's Department and the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office in Geneva.