Promoting gender equality
Posted on November 5th, 2017

Dr. Tilak Fernando Courtesy Ceylon Today

On 10 October 2017, South Asia’s Policy Makers gathered in Colombo to discuss the success and failures of women, who appear to be disregarded in society. A current issue under discussion in Sri Lanka is to have a guaranteed quota of 25- 30 per cent of women in politics, in future elections.

In a broad generalization, statistically or physically or even unwillingly 50 per cent of the world population happens to be women.

Out of that group, over thirty per cent is, or has been, statistically, physiologically, or even unwillingly pregnant! The overall image of the workforce has been rapidly changing, as more and more females join the ranks of executive and supervisor grades!

However, the main obstacle, to women being employed, is regarded as their legal entitlement of 84 days of paid maternity leave, with all other forms of leave entitlement; a married woman will become entitled to full paid leave for more than six months of the year! Apart from such legal obligations, under the Maternity Benefits Ordinance, employers are required to allow two feeding intervals during a nine-hour office day, daily! Despite such drawbacks, advanced technology and computers have managed to take the muscle out of jobs, and is attracting more women, (many university graduates), which goes to prove that seemingly women are encroaching the ‘man’s world’, as an overall success. In a man’s world, a woman’s prerogative is believed to be only to defend herself, however, modern women have burnt their bras and come out fighting for equal rights with men, calling it ‘women’s lib’!


From the point of birth, everyone is conditioned to follow what society dictates. For some reason or the other, and from time immemorial, women have been labelled as the ‘weaker sex’ or inferior to man! Therefore, an individual is not literally free to adhere to one’s own ideas until one becomes an independent thinker, and liberates from such dogmas that become a repository to all conventional thinking, because such a stereotype system codifies into an ‘ideal life.’

At this point of the argument, the ‘liberated woman’ may come up with the catch twenty-two question as to ‘codified for whom’. Is it only for women and why? It is, therefore, unfortunate that women have been given a raw deal for a very long time, in search of truth and beauty.

Having said that, as the world progresses, people have recognized living examples of women at the top, all over the world. Closer to home, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first woman Prime Minister in the world, followed by her daughter as President.

Looking beyond the Indian Ocean, in Bangladesh and Pakistan, people have appreciated this continuing trend. In the UK, Margaret Thatcher managed to rule the country for eleven years. The British monarch, who is the ceremonial head, Queen, Elizabeth II, is still the queen; and also Queen Máxima of the Netherlands. The British Civil Service emphasizes more on women in their top management recruitment policy, where British university graduates have better chances of finding a job straightaway than their male counterparts! One glance at the Church of England, will say it all! After centuries old long battle, women have achieved an immense victory in becoming chaplains, whilst some male priests have been pledging to leave the Church and join the Catholic faith!

Women argue that ‘it does not take any mental genius or gymnastics for a man to make a woman pregnant, except his sheer physical, primitive animal desire!’From that point onwards they say it is the poor woman, who has to go through the mental and the physical agony of bearing and rearing children.

Religious Views

Prominent religious viewpoints, such as in the Hindu faith, the ancient scriptures of Vedas and the Upanishads, have always stood in the way of a woman’s development as an individual. The 32nd Verse in the Ninth’s Chapter of the Bhagavat Gita emphasizes that ‘the female foetus is inferior’ and a woman’s birth is referred to as imperfect (‘Papa-yoni’)!

The issue of women in Islam is misunderstood or distorted partly due to mischief by some Muslims, which has been adopted generally to represent the teachings of Islam. According to Quran, Islamic laws have derived from the words of Allah, and the sayings of the Prophet; sections [4:1, 7:189, 42:11] state, men and women have the same spirit, and there is no superiority in the spiritual sense between men and women!

Right to Equality

Involvement of women in Sri Lankan politics has never been so effervescent until now, and for a start 25 per cent- 30 per cent of parliamentarians will be seen as a step towards moving with the times, as according to the Sri Lankan Constitution, under the clause on ‘Right to Equality’ Article 12, states that ” all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law, while article 12(4) states that nothing shall prevent special provision being made, by law, subordinate legislation or executive action, for the advancement of women, children or disabled persons”.

Saudi Arabia is a Muslim Kingdom, which has been extremely conservative, where men dominate in all activities. However, recently they permitted women to drive motorcars! In a latest development a Princess,(Rima) has been appointed as the Head of the Saudi Multi-Sports Federation equivalent of a Sports Ministry.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela

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