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Advocata Institute identifies laws that discourage entry and retention of Lankan women in labour force

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Advocata Institute says that Sri Lanka’s labour laws that discourage the entry and retention of women in the labour force are a factor preventing female participation in the workforce.

A report, titled ‘Gender Discriminatory Labour Laws in Sri Lanka and Female Labour Force Participation,’ recently launched by the Institute, says that the gender discriminatory labour laws, such as banning work at night, impacts female labour force participation.

The report identifies the lack of reference to part-time and flexible employment in the existing labour law, time restrictions on employing women at night, dearth of legal provisions for sexual harassment in employment and restrictions on overtime work for women, as legal obstacles that discourage women joining and actively participating in the workforce.

The report focused on four main areas of discrimination in the labour market: sexual harassment in the workplace, overtime work, work at night, and part-time work. The report highlighted that if these issues were addressed it is likely that female participation in the workforce would greatly improve which would benefit the economy and attract investment (particularly in the context of Sri Lanka’s tight labour market and the cost of labour).

In order to unblock the potential of the female labour force, the Advocata report proposes a series of reforms to existing legislation. These include amendments to the Shop and Office Employees (Regulation of Employment and Remuneration) Act No. 19 of 1945, Wages Board Ordinance No. 27 of 1941, Gratuity Act No. 12 of 1983, Industrial Disputes Act No. 43 of 1950, Factories Ordinance No. 45 of 1942, Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act No. 47 of 1956.

The launch event of the report was followed by a panel discussion. The panellists for the discussion included Attorney-at-Law Ayomi Fernando, International Centre for Ethnic Studies Independent Consultant and Research Associate Dr. Ramani Gunatilaka, MAS Women’s Empowerment, Advocacy and Code of Conduct General Manager Thanuja Jayawardene, and Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus Representative MP Thalatha Atukorale. The discussion was moderated by Advocata Institute Research Executive (Policy) Sathya Karunarathne.

MP Thalatha Atukorale stressed the importance of this by highlighting that most of the existing legislation need amendments, while stressing, “We need to adopt new laws. With new sectors taking part in our economy, we have a need to amend the laws. The [Women’s] caucus has been working on political, social, environmental issues and doing our best effort to bring into the notice of the ministers.”

During the discussion, it was pointed out that firms in the private sector who wished to hire women often have to negotiate their way through complicated and archaic laws. Some firms may even forego this altogether and enter informal agreements which, however, do not provide sufficient protections for women.

Sri Lanka’s failure to recognise part-time employment under the Shop and Office Employees (Regulation of Employment and Remuneration) Act remains such a barrier. According to Thanuja Jayawardene, “Making part-time work available for female employees is an important step in increasing labour force participation. From the business point of view, it is more beneficial to accommodate part-time work rather than lose employees, irrespective of their gender.”

Dr. Ramani Gunatilaka further stressed the importance of the reform, “If part-time work is allowed, young people and students can get experience, develop networks and even start their own businesses. Women can and want to do this. So, reforms are essential.” She stressed on the urgency of implementing these reforms and the impact it can have on the economy, “The working-age population is declining, and unless female labour force participation is boosted, the economy will not be able to grow at the expected rate.”

Ayomi Fernando shared similar insights while bringing into context the importance of recognising the elimination of restrictions on employing women at night. She said “Provisions preventing women working overtime are affecting the female labour. Women do need protection; however, these laws should be balanced to ensure women have equal opportunities.”



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Speaker proposes how to steer SL out of crisis

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has handed over a set of proposals to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, spelling out how to resolve country’s economic crisis.The proposals made by the Speaker pertain to a number of important sectors and highlight the importance of providing relief to low income groups.

The Speaker has said Sri Lankans working or doing business overseas or foreign investors depositing USD 100,000 with the Central Bank for a period of two years should be paid a 10% interest per annum in Sri Lankan rupees and allowed to credit the interest to any account preferred by the depositor. He also proposes that the government issue a vehicle import licence worth USD 25,000, six months after an individual makes a fixed deposit while also allowing him to pay a standard tax of USD 10,000 to the government for that vehicle.Speaker Abeywardena has proposed how to reduce energy costs, release adequate stocks of LP gas to the market, boost domestic production food production, stabilise the banking system.

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MR had not decided to resign on 09 May, says Weerasekra

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera says Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa had not decided to resign on 09 May 09 although the SLPP MPs had been asked to bring supporters to Temple Trees for a meeting.Weerasekera said so when The Island asked him why he had skipped the Temple Trees meeting.One-time Public Security Minister said that the then PM Rajapaksa had, during a conversation with him on 08 May had denied reports that the latter was planning to resign the following day. MP Namal Rajapaksa, however, had asked a group of MPs and others to bring supporters to express support for the PM, MP Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera said he had been among those contacted by MP Namal Rajapaksa.The former Navy Chief of Staff said that the failure on the part of law enforcement authorities and the military to respond swiftly and decisively to a threat of breach of law and order had led to a disaster at time global attention was on Sri Lanka due to the deteriorating financial situation.MP Weerasekera questioned why police had refrained from firing at least once into the air when mobs arrived at some MPs’ houses, which were destroyed. For over 48 hours mobs had ruled the country, the MP alleged, demanding an explanation why shoot-on-sight orders had not been issued as soon as mobs started to attack MPs’ houses.MP Weerasekera said that serious accusations made by SLPP members, particularly Wimal Weerawansa, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Mahindananda Aluthgamage couldn’t be ignored. They accused some sections of the SLPP of conspiring to unleash violence and the police and the armed forces turning a blind eye to countrywide retaliatory attacks.

Newly-appointed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said that he would order a thorough probe into the May 09 incidents. Minister Alles said so when The Island asked him what he would do against the backdrop of allegations of the police facilitating attacks on protesting public in the Kollupitiya and Fort police areas.MPs, Weerawansa and Dr. Ramesh Pathirana alleged in Parliament that Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and C. D. Wickremaratne, Inspector General of Police prevented Deshabandu Tennakoon, Senior DIG, Colombo from mob attacks on the protesting public.

Former Minister Weerasekera said that the government, the SLPP and the police should come clean on this matter. MP Weerasekera said that the government mishandled the challenge posed by those who cleverly exploited the economic crisis. “Perhaps one of the major blunders was allowing the public to block roads. Now, it has become a style. Interested parties also exploit the media and social media. The government seems clueless,” MP Weerasekera said, urging the government to review the developments.MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, told The Island, the top SLPP leadership ignored repeated warnings. The former Agriculture Minister questioned whether those who had advised the Cabinet of Ministers chaired by the President deliberately deceived them.

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Lankan-born Cassandra elected to Australian Parliament

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She beat another candidate of Sri Lankan origin, Ranj Perera

Cassandra Fernando of Sri Lankan descent has been elected to the Australian Parliament.Cassandra, an advocate for essential workers and the Federal Labor Candidate for Holt.She migrated to Australia with her family when she was 11.She began working at Woolies Dandenong Plaza as a teenager. She now represents workers in the retail and fast food industries, fighting to improve their pay and conditions. She has also volunteered to tutor migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds so they can make the best of every opportunity.

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