Photo credit: Parliament of Sri Lanka
Sixty years since Sri Lanka’s historic election of the world’s first female prime minister, women’s participation in the country's politics remains abysmally low. Women make up more than half of the Sri Lankan electorate, but they are under-represented in decision-making positions. In the 2019 presidential election, there was only one woman candidate out of 35 contestants. During the 2020 parliamentary elections only 12 seats were won by women, representing around 5.4% of the elected candidates. In the 2021 world classification published by the Inter Parliamentary Union, Sri Lanka was ranked 178 out of 184 countries in women’s participation in politics.
DRI’s latest briefing paper provides an overview of the main achievements and obstacles related to women’s political participation in Sri Lanka. It assesses the existing regulatory provisions as well as the social, political, economic and cultural constraints which act as barriers to women’s engagement in formal politics. Lack of access to campaign financing, persisting patriarchal attitudes regarding the roles of women, violence targeting women in politics and the negative media portrayal of female politicians are among these obstacles faced by women, which impede their chances to actively engage in the country’s politics.
In order to address the systemic gender-divide affecting the political environment of Sri Lanka, DRI's briefing paper also formulates a set of recommendations to improve the representation of women in politics. To this end, a number of complementary measures have been identified and elaborated, based not only on legal considerations, but also on societal, cultural and economic factors which have an impact on women’s political empowerment.
Read the full briefing paper below.