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Ban on alcohol sales to women in Sri Lanka reinstated

By Standard Reporter | Published Mon, January 15th 2018 at 10:22, Updated January 15th 2018 at 10:28 GMT +3
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has overruled a ban allowing women over the age of 18 to buy alcohol. [Photo: Courtesy]

A move to grant women in Sri Lanka the same rights as men to buy alcohol legally has been overruled by President Maithripala Sirisena.

The Sri Lankan President told a rally that he had ordered the government to withdraw the reform, which would also have allowed women to work in bars without a permit.

The government announced on Wednesday last week that it was amending a 1955 law, agreeing that it discriminated against women.

Critics have accused the president of not taking in gender equality seriously.

"This is not just about this archaic sexist law but the archaic sexist system in which this law is just one more tool of control," wrote one Sri Lankan blogger.

What the reform means

While the previous law was not always strictly enforced, many Sri Lankan women had welcomed the change.

It would have allowed women over the age of 18 to buy alcohol legally for the first time in more than 60 years.

A ban on alcohol being sold outside the hours of 09:00 hrs to 21:00 would have been changed to allow sales between 08:00 hrs and 22:00.

Sri Lanka had lifted the almost 60-year ban on women buying alcohol or working in places that sell or manufacture liquor, an official said Sunday.

The 1955 law prohibiting the sale of any type of alcohol to women on the island of 21 million people was overturned in an effort to strike sexist bills from the statute books, said a spokesman for the finance ministry.

"The idea was to restore gender neutrality," Ali Hassen told an international news agency of the decision on Wednesday to roll back the ban.

The move also repealed a ban on women working in places where alcoholic drinks are made or sold, like bars.

Liquor vendors are still forbidden to sell spirits to police or members of the armed forces in uniform, Hassen said.

Sri Lanka in its November budget unveiled steep tax rises on hard liquor but greatly reduced prices on wine and beer.

Under the new measures also passed by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, bars and pubs can remain open longer.