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World Organization against Torture urges SL to ban child marriages

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An estimated 10% of girls are married before the age of 18 in Sri Lanka, as the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) does not set a minimum age for marriage enabling any Muslim Quazi (judge) to even authorise the marriage of girls under the age of 12, says a report published by the World Organization against Torture (OMCT).

The report, titled ‘Sri Lanka: child marriage is legalized torture,’ said that South Asia has the highest number of child brides, with around 290 million children married before the age of 18. Despite gains in reducing child marriage in recent decades, progress remains slow and has been further hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic, economic crisis and wars.

It said: “One of them is Shafeeka. When her father died, her mother had to migrate to the Middle East as a domestic worker and Shafeeka, who was 16 years old at the time, was married off to a man twice her age as his second wife. No longer allowed to go to school, she got pregnant with her first child at 17 and with her second at 19 years old. “Instead of carrying books to school, I carried two babies” says Shafeeka, who regrets that she will never get her childhood back. When her second child was two years old in 2021, her husband went abroad for work. She has not heard from him since.

“Based on a patriarchal interpretation of the Sharia law, the MMDA has long been criticised at both domestic and international level by United Nations experts. Girls married before the age of 18 are more likely to suffer physical, sexual and emotional violence at the hands of their husbands. In addition, child marriage is often associated with early and frequent pregnancies leading to high rates of maternal morbidity and mortality. Because of its harmful effects on the mental and physical health of girls and the potential threat it poses to their lives, the UN Committee against Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have considered child marriage to be a form of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

“The MMDA is administered by Quazis who are outside of Sri Lanka’s formal judicial structure despite being financed through taxes. Women are not allowed to be Quazis. Muslim women’s access to justice is therefore severely limited. Litigants before the Quazi system are not allowed to be represented by a lawyer. Many women have reported discriminatory decisions as well as humiliation and verbal abuse by Quazis.

“On the eve of the International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the World Organisation against Torture and Women’s Action Network Sri Lanka call on the Sri Lankan government to criminalise child marriage and to establish a programme to provide social security and education to married children.”



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Opposition threatens to move no-faith motion against Speaker over OSB

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Speaker Abeywardena

By Saman Indrajith

Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premnadasa told Parliament yesterday that the Online Safety Bill had been passed in violation of the law and unless remedial action was taken, a no-faith motion would be brought against Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Premadasa said that Article 123(4) of the Constitution says, “Where any Bill, or the provision of any Bill, has been determined, or is deemed to have been determined, to be inconsistent with the Constitution, such Bill or such provision shall not be passed except in the manner stated in the determination of the Supreme Court.”

Premadasa said: “It is illegal to pass a Bill without adhering to this constitutional provision. There were nine instances where the government overlooked the Supreme Court determination on the Bill. The Speaker allowed that to happen despite our protests. The Justice Minister, too, has admitted that there are flaws in the Act. How could that happen? Rectify them immediately, or we will bring a no-confidence motion against the Speaker.”

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said that even if the Supreme Court determined that a section or clause of a draft Bill was inconsistent with the Constitution, a Bill could be passed by Parliament. It could be done with either a two-thirds majority or two-thirds majority plus people’s approval from a referendum. A case cannot be filed against the way the Speaker or an MP behaved in this House as they have immunity. Former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike, too, has given a ruling on this issue and we still consider it as a precedent to be upheld. With regard to the Online Safety Bill, the Attorney General has instructed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to incorporate some amendments as per the Supreme Court determination and to bring other recommended amendments in the form of a separate Amendment Bill. I was not a party to that discussion. This Amendment Bill was presented to the Cabinet and approval was granted and now is at the Legal Draftsman’s Department. Thereafter, it would be referred to the Cabinet again and with that approval we can have it here in this House for consideration,” the Minister said.

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Teheran expects enhancement of bilateral ties in all fields

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Following Iranian FM’s visit

The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, during high level meetings in Colombo this week, expressed hope that with this trip, the bilateral ties in all fields, including political, economic, commercial, and tourism, would be expanded.

Amirabdollahian was here at the official invitation of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC. During his meeting with Sabry, Amirabdollahian referred to the good and friendly relations between the two countries and the continuous consultations between them on bilateral, regional, and international issues.

The Iranian also considered scientific and technological issues as areas to which the two countries pay attention for cooperation.

Amirabdollahian appreciated the invitation of the President of Sri Lanka to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, to visit this country and stated: “We hope that this trip will be on the agenda at the right time.”

He also appreciated Sri Lanka’s positions in supporting the people of Palestine and Gaza in international forums, including the United Nations.

In this meeting, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry also warmly welcomed his Iranian counterpart and described his trip to Tehran last summer as memorable, stating: “During my trip to Iran, I witnessed the high morale of the Iranian people in the social arena. I observed production and life.”

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister emphasized: “The two countries have good relations with common areas and shared values.”

Referring to Sri Lanka’s transition from previous economic conditions and economic growth and prosperity in this country, Ali Sabry expressed hope that the relations between the two countries would expand even more in the new era.

Referring to the industrial and economic capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka emphasized the readiness of his country to host Iranians to implement economic projects in Sri Lanka.

The issue of developing cooperation between the two countries in the field of tourism was one of the other topics discussed by the foreign ministers of the two countries, and the parties expressed hope that Iranian and Sri Lankan tourists would mutually choose the two countries more and more as tourist destinations.

In this regard, the parties emphasized the necessity of establishing direct flights between Iran and Sri Lanka, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

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Only 50,000 out of 7 mn buildings have rooftop solar systems

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Great potential to increase solar power generation

by Rathindr5a Kuruwita

Rooftop solar power generation in Sri Lanka has exceeded 750 megawatts by the middle of February 2024, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) media spokesman Noel Priyantha said on Wednesday.

Priyantha added that Sri Lanka has great potential in solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.

Sri Lanka has around seven million buildings, but only 50,000 of them have installed rooftop solar systems, and there is a great potential to increase rooftop solar power generation exponentially, he said.

The CEB now buys a unit of electricity from rooftop solar power producers for 37 rupees, and these producers can recover their initial costs in five years, Priyantha said.

The CEB is also talking to state-owned banks to introduce a concessional bank loan for those interested in installing rooftop solar power units, he said.

The Sri Lankan government has set a goal of achieving 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 and becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

The total installed capacity of the national power grid is over 5,000 megawatts, and the daily energy consumption in February 2024 is about 46 gigawatts per day, Priyantha said .

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