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UN committee on discrimination against women to review women's rights in Sri Lanka

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is to review women’s rights in several countries signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The review for Sri Lanka is to take place on February 22nd in Geneva.  

In a recent report to CEDAW, Sri Lanka responded to concerns and recommendations made by CEDAW in the fifth, sixth and seventh periodic reports.

Some areas of concern expressed by CEDAW included: the legal status of the convention, prohibition of discrimination against women, discriminatory laws, national machinery for the advancement of women, temporary special measures, stereotypes and discriminatory practices, violence against women, and issues surrounding implementation.

In regards to the legal status of the convention, Sri Lanka maintains that Article 12(2) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, which states: “No citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, place of birth or any such grounds,” furthers the legal status of the convention even in the absence of a separate legal provision – such as a Women’s Rights Bill. 

In response to CEDAW’s detailed recommendations on the violence against women – including adopting measures to prevent violence against women, investigating occurrences, punishing perpetrators and providing redress to victims, Sri Lanka responded largely with bureaucratic mechanisms.

“All acts of violence against women are criminalized. Sri Lanka’s legal regime in this regard is comprehensive. The implementation mechanisms have also been strengthened with a network of State Institutions that reach the grass roots level vested with tasks to address violence issues,” stated the report.

Further, the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act is to establish bodies such as the National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses.

Such attempts to address violence against women on the island have been put to question by groups such as ITPJ – as reflected in report released on Monday. The report quotes female victims that were held as sex slaves by the Sri Lankan military. The report also documents other forms of torture committed by the military and police against women in custody.

“This Government keeps on asking us for the names and addresses of the victims; through CEDAW we are passing on information regarding alleged perpetrators so let’s see if the Government is really serious about justice. Our report sets out all the steps they should take; CEDAW can monitor their progress,” said ITJP’s Executive Director.

Findings from CEDAW’s review will be published on March 6th.

See Sri Lanka's submission here.