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Sri Lanka’s Gender Equality Bill comes under fire

Proposed law is part of a UN effort to depopulate the developing world, civil society group alleges
Anti-government demonstrators shout slogans during a protest organised by the

Anti-government demonstrators shout slogans during a protest organised by the "Women for Rights" group on the occasion of International Women's Day, near the parliament building in Colombo in this March 8, 2023 photo. Sri Lanka will pass a proposed Gender Equality Bill by the end of June, 2024. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 29, 2024 06:22 AM GMT
Updated: May 29, 2024 06:59 AM GMT

Church leaders and a civil society group have attacked a proposed Gender Equality Bill in Sri Lanka terming it a "pathway to legalizing abortion and prostitution" under the guidance of the United Nations in the island nation.

Cultura Vitae, an organization dedicated to combating abortion and prostitution worldwide, said the proposed bill would erode the sanctity of marriage and family values.

“The constitution guarantees equality before the law and equal opportunity for all persons. So, the question is: why is the UN pushing the government of Sri Lanka to enact a gender equality bill?" Cultura Vitae said in a statement on May 27.

The bill is the outcome of repeated directives from UN agencies to change traditions and cultural practices of Sri Lankans, observed Cultura Vitae.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced the bill on International Women’s Day on March 8 with a plan to table it in parliament this month.

“It is imperative that women’s rights go beyond mere rhetoric. A task that has been neglected for far too long,” Wickremesinghe said while supporting the bill.

However, the interim president said on May 25 that the government will pass the bill by June-end.

In its Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka, the UN Human Rights Council has been accusing the South Asian nation of discrimination against women. The international rights body has also criticized the government for criminalizing same-sex relations.

This bill was introduced due to repeated pressure from the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other Western governments, Cultura Vitae alleged.

The UN Population Fund-approved "National Policy on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment," report outlines abortion and prostitution as integral parts of gender equality. It normalizes same-sex ties and sodomy and advocates teaching these concepts to students as part of the curriculum, noted Dr F.E. Dias, a member of Cultura Vitae.

Abortion, same-sex ties, prostitution, and promiscuity are part of women's empowerment under the new bill, Dias said.

“The UNFPA’s mandate is depopulation in the developing world and its primary efforts are in abortion and decimation of natural marriage and family values,” Dias said.

The Gender Equality Bill reflects this agenda, he said.

Reacting to the proposed bill, Father Cyril Gamini, spokesperson of Colombo archdiocese, said that the Catholic Church’s position on abortion remains unchanged, and asserted that that nobody has the authority to take another person’s life.

Suranji Maddumahewa, an advocate for women's rights, however, said that the bill would advance gender equality across diverse sectors.

“The government will establish a Gender Equality Council with ministerial powers to address the issues," Maddumahewa told UCA News on May 28.

Maddumahewa, from the capital Colombo, said women should have a say in abortion which is not allowed in the country of 22 million people except under life-saving circumstances.

“Sex workers do not have an honorable position in [Sri Lankan] society,” she noted and said that the right to make “decisions about one's body is fundamental.”

Supuni Ranjitha, a rights activist from central Kandy, said that some countries have legal provisions for abortion in case of a gang rape.

She told UCA News that there should be a law allowing for the abortion of fetus resulting from gang rape.

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