Sri Lankan cardinal says housewives deserve a salary

'Laborers without a wage' who stay at home to care for their children should be remunerated and given pensions
Sri Lankan cardinal says housewives deserve a salary

A Catholic prays to Our Lady of Madhu, a Marian shrine in Mannar district of Sri Lanka, during a special Mass on Aug. 15. ( photo) reporter, Madhu
Sri Lanka
August 20, 2018
Women who sacrifice their careers to serve as homemakers should be paid a salary to encourage more stay-at-home moms who can ensure their offspring are raised with the right Christian and family values. Such was the message sent by Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith during his sermon at an annual feast held at the 400-year-old Our Lady of Madhu shrine in Mannar district on Aug. 15.

"Our women go to work, leaving their children with others. If one brings children into this world, they should be looked after and brought up with the right set of values," said the Colombo archbishop.

"The late Pope John Paul in his encyclical on labor said a salary should be paid to non-working mothers who stay at home to look after their children," he said. "This will encourage them and help them to realize the importance of the work they do in raising children."

He issued the remarks at the most famous shrine in the country which bears scars from shelling attacks during the quarter-century civil war between Tamil rebels seeking independence and government security forces. The conflict ended a decade ago in 2009.

"If your child goes astray, the money you earn through working goes to waste. Children should be brought up with good values," the prelate said.

The shrine is a magnet for pilgrimages and worship among Sri Lankan Catholics. It also serves as a symbol of unity, not just between Tamils and Sinhalese but various religions.

Over 600,000 Sri Lankan Catholics gather for an annual feast at Our Lady of Madhu shrine on Aug. 15. The shrine is a symbol of unity among Tamils and Sinhalese in the country. ( photo)


Cardinal Ranjith said Pope Francis, in his encyclical on the family, pointed out that the period when a mother carries a child in her womb is the most important and valuable time of her life.

But while motherhood has traditionally been seeing as a blessing, more women in the country are reluctant to have kids these days, surveys show.

"Women are abandoning their children," the archbishop said. "Children are being rejected continuously."

"Some people don't understand that a host of God's blessings come along with the arrival of a child. By that token, we curse God when we [reject] these blessings."

He said the opening up of Sri Lanka's economy has destroyed some of its cultural norms and values.

"Pope Francis said that large families spell happiness. Rejecting any life is not a responsible act. Parents should see children are a blessing," he added.

Women's rights activist Nalini Ratnarajah said the economic value of housewives has never been recognized.

"They are laborers without a wage. They don't have social security, no medical, no insurance," said Ratnarajah, a mother of two who serves as a consultant for the country's Women's Political Academy, which was established in 2010.

"A mother's contribution is for the whole country. She educates children, brings up future generations. Fathers can earn money but mothers are the ones who nurture their children with love and care. They should have medical insurance, a pension or some sort of monthly payment.

"In South Asian culture, where patriarchal attitudes prevail, women are supposed to cook at home every day. If they earn money, their salaries should go into their husband's account."

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also attended the annual feast. He hailed it as a wonderful opportunity to embrace people of all faiths for greater inclusiveness and to help foster national reconciliation.

"Catholics and non-Catholics all come here to make wishes and receive God's blessings," he said.

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