Women’s absence in Sri Lankan politics: Lessons on the effectiveness and limitations of quotas to address under-representation

Authored by: Ramona Vijeyarasa

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Access to Justice and Rule of Law, Democratization and Political Participation
Country: Sri Lanka
Region: South and Central Asia
Year: 2020
Citation: Vijeyarasa, Ramona. “Women's Absence in Sri Lankan Politics: Lessons on the Effectiveness and Limitations of Quotas to Address under-Representation.” Women's Studies International Forum 81 (May 2020).

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After decades of resistance to quotas – or reserved seats – as a means of addressing women’s lack of representation in politics, Sri Lanka introduced a highly complicated and little-understood series of electoral laws to establish a quota for women at the local government level (LGL). Local government elections in February 2018 marked their inaugural implementation. Drawing on nearly five decades of global academic literature analysing quotas and utilising a five-pronged framework for understanding the goals that quotas are designed to achieve, this paper assesses the LGL quota against those objectives. Based on key-informant interviews and data from the 2018 election, I consider (i) the extent to which we might expect an increase in the space and respect for women politicians in Sri Lanka; (ii) the likelihood that elected women can deliver a gender-responsive political agenda for their female constituents; and (iii) the extent to which the quota can help redefine political norms in Sri Lanka.