Sri Lanka to reimposes sexist ban on women buying alcohol – days after it was lifted

15 January 2018 - 1092   - 3

 President Sirisena has reimposed a four-decade-long sexist ban on women buying alcohol, just days after his finance minister had lifted the restriction.

Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday said he had ordered the country’s finance minister, Mangala Samaraweera, to revoke his decision of last week to overturn the 1979 law prohibiting the sale of any type of alcohol to women.

“From tomorrow [Monday], the minister’s order will be rescinded,” Sirisena’s office was quoted as saying in an AFP report, which added that the status quo will be restored but offered no explanation.

The reversal comes after a finance ministry official told AFP Samaraweera had revoked the 39-year-old law in an effort to strike sexist bills from the statute books.

“The idea was to restore gender neutrality,” ministry spokesman Ali Hassen said of the decision to roll back the ban.

But last week’s decision to relax laws on alcohol provoked a backlash in some quarters of the majority-Buddhist nation of 21 million people.

The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection had accused the finance minister of encouraging drinking, and had urged Sirisena to intervene and restore the restrictions.

Under further new measures passed by Samaraweera, bars and pubs can remain open longer, and a ban on women working in bars, distilleries and breweries was lifted.

But Sirisena’s office said he was reducing the time period that bars could be open. It was not clear from Sirisena’s statement on Sunday if the decision to allow women to work in the alcohol industry had also been reversed.

The ban on women buying liquor was likely originally imposed in 1979 to appease the conservative Buddhist hierarchy at the time, a finance ministry official told AFP.

Liquor vendors in Sri Lanka are also forbidden to sell spirits to police or members of the armed forces in uniform.

Samaraweera has said that strict curbs on Sri Lanka’s licensed liquor manufacturers only encourage a black market for spirits, and deprive the state of much-needed revenue.

  Comments - 3

  • ralph Monday, 15 January 2018 10:51 AM

    Just as we thought our island was progressing we take another massive backward step , this law is not just sexist, it is racist, and is aimed at the very poorest Sri Lankans , all the big hotels in Colombo sell liquor to the wealthy women of our island, all female tourist buy liquor anywhere they want. So if you are a female tourist or a wealthy Sri Lankan you can continue to buy your drink ,it's time all the people of our island are treated equally.

    Reply : 0       2

    Roshan W.D Monday, 15 January 2018 12:09 PM

    This is sheer hipocracy and foolishness. . Why are they allowing women to serve liquor in night clubs and hotels then. Women can drink in any hotel in Sri Lanka. Besides anyone can buy liquor in supermarkets even ladies.

    Reply : 1       1

    Susie k Monday, 15 January 2018 09:45 PM

    If the government wants to discourage drinking, then impose the ban on BOTH MEN AND WOMEN. How is imposing a ban only on women going to help??? All goes to show you that women in Sri Lanka are very much discriminated against and stereotyped as weak and dumb. It is pure hypocrisy that the government is advertising on newspapers everyday calling for an increase in women's labour force participation which is at 36% and one of the lowest in Asia. This discrimination against women in this ban on alcohol is totally against Buddhism and is an insult to Buddhism because Budda called for equal treatment of women. It's sad that these Buddhist monks are insulting Buddhism in this way, when Buddhism emphasize equal treatment of women more than any other religion in this world.

    Reply : 0       2

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