As Sri Lanka experiences an unprecedented economic crisis – including spiraling inflation and a shortage of basic necessities – women are among the most vulnerable to its impacts, the United Nations (UN) said.
The UN said this is particularly true of UN Women’s key stakeholder groups including women heads of households, women affected by conflict, and women who lack access to resources, protection, and opportunities for full economic empowerment.
The Officer-in-Charge for UN Women Asia and the Pacific, Sarah Knibbs, met with key partners to advocate for the equitable prioritization of women’s needs and rights in all measures taken to respond to and recover from the current crisis, and for their equal participation in developing and implementing the same.
During her visit, she highlighted that “in line with global analysis, the current economic crisis is very likely to be detrimental to the present status of women and girls, and reverse the limited gains made in relation to their health, wellbeing, rights and opportunities”.
The scarcity of essential food and medicine, along with potential austerity measures resulting from economic recovery processes will have far-reaching consequences for many Sri Lankans, including many women who are already vulnerable to socio-economic shocks, with limited access to resources or social protection. Cuts to social protection schemes will also deprive many women of the meagre allowances available to them, and will have ripple effects on the wellbeing of their children and other household members.
Additionally, while both women and men are affected by job losses during times of crisis, evidence shows that women are often laid off first. For instance, a new UN Women study ‘Gender Disparities and Labour Market Challenges’; shows that between 2019 and 2020, female employment in Sri Lanka declined by nearly 8 percent in the 600 firms that were surveyed, driven mainly by the halving of skilled female employment in the hospitality sector by 47 percent. However, following the COVID-19 lockdowns, male employment in the hospitality sector increased by a considerable 14 percent.
In meetings with key partners, Knibbs highlighted key priorities to ensure a gender-responsive response to and recovery from the crisis.
Firstly, she stressed the need for gender responsive policies, highlighting that “Crises have gender-specific impacts that disproportionately burden women. Investments in gender-responsive research and adopting a transformative approach to designing economic and social policies that promote the realization of women’s rights is a crucial step towards inclusive recovery”.
Secondly, she highlighted the need for women’s equal participation in shaping these efforts. Globally, women’s participation in decision-making and recovery planning has proven effective in ensuring stable long-term recovery from crisis. However, throughout Sri Lanka’s history, women have been largely underrepresented in formal spaces of power.
Recognizing this, Knibbs stated that “in order to ensure that women’s needs are addressed in response and recovery efforts, it is essential that Sri Lankan women are included in all decision-making spheres”.
Thirdly, she highlighted the importance of gender-responsive national planning and budgeting processes, to ensure the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable are prioritized and contribute to equal opportunities as the country works towards recovery.
Finally, she noted the importance of strengthening data collection and the use of sex-disaggregated data to assess the differential impact of the economic crisis on women and men, and to respond appropriately.
She assured partners that UN Women remains committed to supporting women and girls of Sri Lanka, and that it would strengthen its ongoing work with partners to ensure that Sri Lankan women have increasing income security, access to decent work and economic autonomy. Further, as UN Women works on implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in the country, she emphasized the importance of women’s leadership in rebuilding societies during times of crisis.
BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”
“Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.
“We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”
The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.
The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.
Full text of the BASL letter to the President:
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.
Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.
The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.
We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.
The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.
We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.
The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.
SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution
By A.J.A. Abeynayake
A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.
The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.
The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.
A/L may be delayed by one month
Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.
Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.
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