A group of female rights activists cum veteran professionals on Wednesday petitioned Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court challenging a controversial Government decision to revoke an order to allow women to be employed in places of the production and sale of alcohol.
The petition also noted that “an imposition of a prohibition applicable to members of only one gender would tantamount to an unequal treatment of the members of such gender”.
The petitioners are Ms. Nishanthi Bandaranayake, M.D.J.B. Fernando, Shanika Fonseka, Chandima Ravini Jinadasa, Deepanjalie Abeywardana, Sabrina Esufally, Sharanya Sekaram, Randhula de Silva, Meneka Galgamuwa, Sujatha Gamage and Visakha Perera Tillekeratne.
The petition urged the court to issue an interim order restraining the Government from revoking the January 10 order by the Minister of Finance until the petition is fully heard and decided upon.
The Government has said the gazette revoking permission, only granted a few days ago by the Finance Minister, for women to be employed in a pub or place of production and also to sell alcohol (like what men are entitled to), will be issued after the return of Minister Mangala Samaraweera from an overseas visit.
Last week the Minister issued two gazettes, one undoing an archaic law which barred women from purchasing liquor and also selling it, and the second – to extend the opening hours in liquor shops, pubs and restaurants. On Sunday, the President ordered both these new rules to be revoked.
The Minister, the Treasury Secretary and the Attorney General have been cited as respondents. The petitioners state that this prohibition was a draconian measure that was arbitrary, irrational, unreasonable and discriminatory to female citizens of the Republic.
“The petitioners state that the above circumstances gives rise to a reasonable apprehension regarding an imminent infringement of the petitioners’ right to equality and equal protection of the law guaranteed to them by Article 12 (1) of the Constitution. The petitioners state that the above circumstances gives rise to a reasonable apprehension regarding an imminent infringement of the Petitioners’ right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of their sex guaranteed to them by Article 12(2) of the Constitution,” the petition noted. No date for the hearing has been set but since the petitioners are seeking an interim order restraining the Minister from issuing the fresh gazette, which likely in the next few days, the petition is likely to be heard in the next two days.
Taken fromThe Sunday Times