Women’s rights: Sri Lanka still to go a long way | Daily News

Women’s rights: Sri Lanka still to go a long way

Sri Lanka is not in a good situation with regard to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) despite having ratified the international standards, Sri Lanka Human Rights Chairman Deepika Udagama said.

“Even though we have a Constitution that ensures equality and non-discrimination, CEDAW urged Sri Lanka to take on conflict-related violence against women,” she said.

She was addressing the Lecture, Question and Answer (LQA) session organised by the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS) on Wednesday to mark International Women’s Day.

Udagama said it is high time that we say women are also human beings just like saying prisoners are also human beings.

“This is why we have human rights. When you listen to the programmes on International Women’s Day, it is all about extolling the virtues of motherhood. It is not about any particular status of one’s life whether you are a daughter, wife or a mother. That is irrelevant. The point is we are all human beings and women deserve equal respect,” she said.

Speaking of the problems faced by Muslim women in Sri Lanka under the Muslim Marriages and Divorces Act (MMDA), Udagama said the Constitution in a democratic country should be the supreme law. Nothing should be above it, she said.

“The Constitution is the supreme law, but there are exceptions. The article 16 of the Constitution says any written or unwritten laws at the adoption of the Constitution will continue to operate notwithstanding inconsistency with the Constitution. There is a contradiction where the Constitution is the supreme law, but there are exceptions,”she said.

Udagama said the human rights commission’s position is that we must have a principally recognised Constitution. All other laws should abide by that, Udagama said.

Even though Udagama sees the problems faced by Muslim women as human rights issue, she said it would be strategic for the community to deal with the issues pertaining to the Muslim Personal law. 

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