In 1931, Sri Lanka became one of the first countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America to give women the right to vote. In 1960, Sri Lanka was the first country worldwide to have a female Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Later, in 1994, the first female Executive President was democratically elected. Regarding this very positive history record, one would expect women in Sri Lanka to be actively involved in politics on a local and national level, holding positions of political power. Even more so, considering that women make up for 51,8% of the country’s total population. It is therefore a bitter surprise that women’s political representation on a national level remains at only 5%. On local and provincial levels, it is even lower.
This raises the question of a quota, which was discussed at a meeting in the beginning of the year 2015 between the Norwegian electoral Expert Kåre Vollan and Sri Lankan female activists. If at least 1/3 of the political seats in the parliament where legally reserved for women, female participation in the Sri Lankan political scenario would be secured. In order to accomplish this, female activists need to convince political parties of adopting this quota. Only then will the president bring up this issue up in the parliament. But this is a hard job. How to make clear how important this step is? The presence of women in the parliament is not only a big step towards gender equality and equity; it is also a step towards fulfilling the election slogan of the actual President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, “A new Sri Lanka for Women”. And last, but not least, it would be beneficial for the society as a whole.