Feb 25, 2017

Sri Lanka’s Muslim women treated as second class citizens Featured

The Government should take measures to abolish the Muslim Personal Law which treats Muslim women as second class citizens, said the Women and Media Collective.

At the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) sessions held in Geneva, Switzerland,  eight women’s organisations collectively submitted a comprehensive proposal for the protection of the rights of women in Sri Lanka.

Through the proposal submitted in Geneva, the collective women’s committees pointed out the injustice to women through the Muslim Personal Law including the legalisation of child marriages, appointment of judges to the Quazi Court, obstruction of women’s right to go before the judiciary, permitting Muslim men to enter into multiple marriages without the consent of the wife and many other discriminatory clauses.

Discrimination taking place with state sponsorship

The Women and Media Collective and other supportive organisations expressed their objection to the government’s stand that the amendment of the Muslim Personal Law is a matter pertaining to the Muslim community.

According to their collective statement, “Discrimination against Muslim women and girls which has been happening for the past 66 years with State sponsorship should be immediately stopped”.

Submitted proposals

Among the proposals submitted by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women in Geneva are;

  • Incorporate the principle of equality into domestic legislation such as the Women’s Rights Bill
  • Abolish the Muslim Personal Law and Thesavalamai law
  • Ensure equal wages for women in all fields of employment
  • Abolish all laws pertaining only to women
  • Strengthening the legal process preventing abusers of women escaping from the law
  • Measures to uplift of the living standards of war widows and other women
  • Removal of clause related to same sex relationships in the Penal Code

In drafting the new Constitution:

Under paragraph 16 of the Constitution preventing judicial investigation on a passed law paves the way for discrimination against minor communities, pointed out the Women’s collective adding that this clause should be removed when drafting the new Constitution.

President Maithripala Sirisena had recently stated that when the proposal on same sex relationships was submitted to the Cabinet recently, he had thrown out the proposal.

State Finance Minister Lakshman Yapa Abewardena had stated that the SLFP is vehemently opposed to the amending of existing provisions pertaining to same sex relations.  

However, the new Human Rights Commission Chairperson Dr. Deepika Udugama said in an interview with the BBC Sandeshaya that discrimination based on sexual orientation is unfit for a civilised society.