Women’s political representation in the Sri Lankan Parliament, as well as in other elected political bodies, remains abysmally low. Despite being the majority of the electorate as well as the majority among registered voters, women’s voices remain absent from formal politics. In January 2020, Sri Lanka ranked at 182 out of 191 countries in terms of percentages of women in Parliament. In addition, the general election last year saw the lowest number of women entering parliament through preferential votes in the last two decades.
To address the growing disparity of female representation in politics, the government introduced a mandatory 25% quota for women to enter local government through the Local Authorities (Amendment) Act, No. 1 of 2016. Although female representation in local councils rapidly increased as a result of this Act, women entering politics in Sri Lanka still face many challenges deterring them from civic and political engagement. One such challenge is the disparity in the coverage of male and female candidates on social media.
DRI’s new report analyses male versus female representation on Facebook during the 2020 parliamentary election period and looks at the potentially biased framings of female candidates in social media posts. Our findings confirm the underrepresentation and biased framing of female candidates in Facebook pages and groups during Sri Lanka’s last election. Finally, we provide a series of recommendations on how to create an environment conducive to female candidates using online platforms for campaigning and to support greater representation of women in mainstream politics.