03/21/2018, 17.10
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Sri Lankan groups want UN Convention on the elimination of women’s discrimination implemented

by Melani Manel Perera

Sri Lanka ratified the Convention in 1981 but women still have to struggle for their fundamental rights. They are still paid less than men. The Human Rights Commission wants improved conditions for women working in the informal sector.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Women’s groups demand the implementation without delay of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Women's Discrimination (CEDAW).

The UN General Assembly adopted the international convention in 1979, which Sri Lanka ratified on 5 October 1981. But the CEDAW Committee said it was “concerned about the lack of progress” in protecting women’s rights.

To mark the occasion, the Civil Society Collectives (CSC), which includes 27 women’s and civil society groups, met on Monday at the Rukmani Devi Memorial Centre for Performing Arts in Negombo, 37 km north of the capital. Catholic leaders, government officials, and law enforcement were also present along with about 500 outreach workers and activists.

“All the women’s groups, all the religious leaders, human rights activists, and state officials must work together to achieve the CEDAW Committee recommendations, which establish solutions for the problems or the needs of women at the grassroots level in Sri Lanka,” said Laveena Hasanthi, Women's Coordinator for the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO).

For Chamila Thushari, coordinator of Da-Bindu Collectives, "The simple truth is that women involved in manufacturing, migration and plantations are the backbone of this country in terms of foreign remittances. But the sad thing is that these women are still struggling to see their fundamental rights recognised."

A case in point is the lack of “women representatives in the administration with respect to agriculture,” said N M Dewapriya. “Women face many problems, in the fields and in the home. They do the same job but are paid less than men."

On 8 March, International Women's Day, the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (HRCS) held a rally at the BMICH (Bandaranayaki Memorial International Conference Hall) in Colombo; it also released a report titled A world without her? Empowering women in the informal sector: A human rights policy.

The "informal economy" refers to unpaid social and volunteer work, at home and outside. Many women are employed in it.

The Human Rights Commission’s top goal is to improve conditions for women employed in the former by getting government authorities to take them into consideration when recommendations are framed and implemented.

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