Poor turnout of female candidates for local govt. pollsLack of candidates to contest from rural areas, interference by local male politicians and cultural taboos are among issues impeding efforts to fill 25 percent of the nomination lists with female candidates at the upcoming local government elections.
Female MPs from major political parties, speaking to the Sunday Times, said work on identifying female candidates to contest the elections was proceeding, but highlighted there were still difficulties.
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Gampaha District MP and Minister Sudharshani Fernandopulle said she had no trouble finding candidates from her district. She however, added she was aware of some problems when securing candidates from rural areas Mrs. Fernandopulle though, was still positive about the support female candidates were gaining from within the party and from a number of civil society organisations.
Thusitha Wijemanne, United National Party (UNP) MP and Chairperson of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender, said she had been able to identify qualified candidates for the upcoming elections. Nevertheless, Mrs. Wijemanna, who is also a member of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus stated problems still existed where male politicians dominant at the provincial level, were hindering the process of selecting candidates fairly.
She further commented on the success of events launched at district level through the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and the Sectoral Oversight Committee where members of all parties united to carry forward outreach programs to increase women’s awareness of opportunities to serve the community as elected leaders. Even though cultural taboos still exist against women running for election, Mrs. Wijemanna was positive about a reasonable number of candidates being elected through direct voting.
Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) MP Sriyani Wijewickrama pointed out that male politicians currently dominate elected office in the country. In order to make full use of the opportunity presented by the quotas, male politicians have to treat women with respect and provide impartial support, she emphasised.
In 2017, the percentage of women in Sri Lanka’s Parliament lags at 4.9 per cent, though they make up 52 per cent of the population. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) ranking of women in ministerial positions in 2017 placed Sri Lanka in the 181st position of 190.