Tuesday, 05 July 2016 17:43

Sri Lanka Raises Women’s Concerns At CEDAW Committee in Geneva

Sri Lanka submitted a State report and a shadow report to the committee of the Convention on the Elimination on all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The 66th Pre-Sessional Working Group committee (PSWG) meeting for the CEDAW was held in July at the United Nations in Geneva.

Shadow reporting is a tool that civil society uses to bring the attention of UN Treaty bodies to issues that are not raised by governments. The shadow report submitted by Sri Lanka was led by FOKUS WOMEN’s Sri Lanka office with inputs from NPC.

Civil Society members from their respective countries were given 10 minutes each to submit statements to urge the committee to pressure their governments to ensure that the state promotes and protects its duties to the convention.

Participants highlighted concerns relating to girl children, women and transgender women to the committee to urge governments to implement their obligations to women citizens. As governments will be reporting to the committee early next year, the issues raised will formulate the committee’s questions and concerns to governments.

Dr.Shyamala Gomez, Country Director of FOKUS WOMEN, and Lakmini Jayathilake, NPC’s Project Coordinator, represented Sri Lankan civil society. This was the first time that NPC played an active role in the CEDAW Shadow Report process.

At the PSWG meeting, Sri Lanka submitted three statements to the Committee highlighting shortcomings and concerns related to Female Heads of Households, LGBTIQ community, marital rape, abortion, disability, personal law (Quazi and Thesawalamay), migrant workers and sex workers. The statements were submitted by FOKUS WOMEN, Equal Ground and Network of Sri Lankan Citizens for Implementation of CEDAW.

The committee asked the Sri Lankan delegates how constitutional reforms addressed issues related to personal law that affect women. Dr. Gomez said that although constitutional reform was taking place, there was resistance from the government to change personal laws. The government’s solution was to tell the community to come to a consensus and make recommendations. But the community itself was divided, she added. For example, under the Muslim system, the age of marriage for a girl child was 12 years. Some in the community wanted to change this but others did not so a consensus could not be reached.

Sri Lankan civil society was hopeful that the CEDAW Committee would raise the issues highlighted in its shadow report and statements made at the meeting to ensure the rights of its women citizens were promoted and protected.