The President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, has reinforced the ban on women buying alcohol, days after the four-decade old law was lifted by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera. Removing the ban was seen as a threat to the Sri Lankan culture by the Buddhist population. Critics have alleged that the President was not seriously committed to the issue of gender equality.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report states that 80.5% of Sri Lankan women never drink, while 56.9% of men do.
On Januray 10, 2018, the government announced that it is amending the 1979 law that restricted women from buying alcohol. Though the law was not seriously followed, it was a historic decision, as for the first time in 60 years, women would have been able to buy alcohol legally. Samaraweera told AFP that the change in law would help strike down sexist bills in law books.
“The idea was to restore gender neutrality,” ministry spokesman Ali Hassen said of lifting the ban.
After facing backlash from Buddhist monks, the government decided to reinforce the ban on January 14. “From tomorrow [Monday], the minister’s order will be rescinded,” Sirisena’s office said, without offering any explanation.
Around 70% of Sri Lanka’s population are Buddhists. The monks claimed that lifting the ban will result in the degeneration of Sri Lankan family culture by letting women get hooked to alcohol.
The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection in the country even went as far as accusing the finance minister of encouraging drinking and asked Sirisena to step-in.
Earlier, Sirisena had asked women to play an active part in politics and the reinforcement of this law is seen as hypocritical among the Sri Lankans.