For a South Asian Country, Sri Lanka might be considered relatively progressive, given the high positions that have been held by women: Sri Lanka boasts the world’s first woman prime minister, has had a woman executive president, a woman as chief justice and a woman attorney general.
Yet, the current parliament does not reflect the boast.
Women are not thriving in parliament: Only 13 of the 225 members of parliament (MPs) are women (5.8%). That puts Sri Lanka at the bottom of the pile amongst SAARC countries (behind Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Bhutan) in terms of percentage of women in parliament and is ranked 130 out of 188 in the world according to the ranking by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
If that does not seem too good, then the analysis from Manthri.lk, a parliamentary monitoring platform, suggests that it is in fact even worse. Manthri.lk measures productive contribution by MPs in parliament. The contribution by women, for the period May 2012 to August 2013, is about 2.4% of the total. That means not only are women terribly under-represented in parliament, but their contribution is lower than average: less than half the contribution from their male counterparts!
The average contribution of the five women in opposition is greater than of the women in government; but when the women MPs in opposition and in government are assessed relative to their male counterparts in opposition and government each group of women MPs are contributing only about 40% (that is, 60% less than the men).
This is despite three women MPs in government being of Ministerial rank: Minister for Power and Energy, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, and Deputy Minister for Water Supply and Drainage.
But averages do hide a wide variance amongst women MPs’ performance.
Some women MPs do much better: there is indeed a large gap between the highest and lowest women contributor in parliament, in both the opposition and the government groups. In each case, the highest contributed over six times as much as the lowest, and about twice as much as the average contribution from their group.
Yet, the data does not exonerate any of the women MPs. The highest contributing women MPs from both the government and the opposition contribute less than the average male MP in the respective groups.
The implication is simple: women MPs in Sri Lanka need to up their game.