Sri Lankan politics needs a feminine touch

27 February 2018 12:07 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A woman’s role in Sri Lankan politics is yet to be cemented despite all the assurances given that female representation would be increased in Local Government (LG) bodies.   


Most political parties still believe that a woman candidate can’t generate a huge number of votes compared to a male candidate. Sri Lankan politics is male dominated and it’s so hard for a female candidate to break this trend and make voters think differently. The Elections Commissioner recently said that 25% female representation is not possible in at least 10 LG bodies, in the north and the east.  


The role of women in politics never became such a hot topic as during the recently concluded LG Elections. We even saw the first female from the Vedda community, W. M. Shiromala, garnering enough votes to win a combined seat in the Henanigala North-South Division.   


All this go on to underscore that despite women having similar credentials as men, the former have been undermined largely due to male chauvinism.   


Woman having the ability to deliver a child after a nine-month pregnancy period is enough qualification that a female can bear all hardships and challenges politics throws at her. A key factor used against women is that they have household responsibilities, hence they can’t devote the time needed to work for the society and win public support.   


This writer knows of a popular gymnasium in Kotte which is frequented by some politicians. One politician, who trains there, is often reminded by his security officer, when training concludes, that he has to make a visit to four or five funeral houses that evening. He is also told that he has to have a meal in some of the selected funeral houses, because neglecting this duty, at these places, would diminish the support he has in the area. Can a women candidate afford to return home late in the night, after making visits to several funeral houses, if she is a married and loaded with household responsibilities?  

 

  • It goes without saying that females have been subject to the mental bondage of men, especially in families which have a political history that’s 
    deep-rooted
  • Males are often uneasy when females entering the political scene are both educated 
    and capable
  • The trend now is for women to postpone marriage and think seriously about career 
    and education


Mental bondage 


Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Sri Lanka’s first female head of state Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike were exceptions. But they too were in the shadows of their husbands when their better halves were at the peak of their political careers. It goes without saying that females have been subject to the mental bondage of men, especially in families which have a political history that’s deep-rooted.   


It’s interesting to note that the female to male workforce partnership in the island is 40.2%. This is despite female graduates outnumbering their male colleagues when the time comes for graduation. Males are often uneasy when females entering the political scene are both educated and capable. For the record, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa invited so many female artistes to take to politics, but the capacity of those invited were below par.   


Those female politicians, despite garnered enough votes, failed miserably in understanding the role of a politician.   


Sri Lanka is still a nation that views women as objects of pleasure or targets which one be subject to fun. The several cases of sexual harassment at work places confirm this. There have been occasions when women have been ridiculed or tormented in parliament, when their turn came to air views in a male dominated atmosphere. If this is the type of respect that’s shown to women in the supreme most place in Sri Lankan administration, we can just imagine what a women is in for when she steps into society!  


‘Animal’ world 


Politicians like UNP’s Rosy Senanayake have shown the potential for a female to survive in this animal world of politics. Her charming looks and upbringing as a village educated lass have not hindered her one bit when she has to put things in order. Her gift of the gab too has helped her as much as it has driven fear into her detractors. Sri Lanka’s female politicians need more of her kind. In this context we also must commend the roles played by Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Srimani Athulathmudali and Ferial Ashroff in Sri Lankan politics.   


Female representation in the national legislature is low as 6% despite 51% of the Sri Lankan population comprising the fairer sex. Women’s participation in Sri Lankan politics is unimpressive when compared to that of countries like Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.   


The recent LG polls gave us a good indication that the women’s role in politics would be enhanced. This time we saw academics entering the fray and most of them came up with the views that could make Sri Lanka a better place for all communities to live in.   


The trend now is for women to postpone marriage and think seriously about career and education. As a result most academic women are in their late 30s when they enter wedlock. It’s quite possible that we might see in the future politically minded women channeling all their energies and time to earn slots as representatives of the national legislature.   


Sri Lankan politics needs a feminine touch by those who can give the men folk a run for their money!    

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