Revocation of excise notice lifting ban on women Another FR petition to be filed by 20 females

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By 2018-01-24

BY Ruwan Laknath Jayakody and Kavindya Perera

Another fundamental rights petition is to be filed by 20 females against the Government's revocation of the excise notification lifting the ban imposed on the purchase of liquor by women and them being employed at a place of production and/or the sale of liquor.

Among the petitioners are Founder Chairperson of the Women's Chamber of Commerce, Chole de Soysa, actress Swarna Mallawarachchi and Savithri Rodrigo. De Soysa had signed the petition on 22 January.

De Soysa speaking to Ceylon Today said, "We argue that there is no difference between man and woman and that there cannot be any differentiation between men and women. Everybody is the same. A rule is a rule. If nobody can buy liquor, that is one thing. But if a man can buy and a woman cannot, that is not fair. It is ridiculous."

Previously, on 17 January, 11 women filed a Fundamental Rights case [S.C. (FR) Application Number SC/FR/25/2018] naming Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera, Secretary – the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media/Treasury Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga and the Attorney General as the respondents.

The petitioners stated that their fundamental rights, as guaranteed in Articles 12(1), 12(2) and 14(1)(g) of the Constitution, had been violated by the first and second respondents who are not legally entitled to revoke or amend the said excise notification (dated 10 January).

Article 12 guarantees the right to equality and the equal protection of the law while Article 12(2) provides for the freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex which in Article 12(3) further extends to the right to non-discrimination in relation to access to shops, public restaurants, and hotels.

Elsewhere, Article 14 (1) (g) enshrines the right to engage in a lawful occupation, profession, trade, business and enterprise while Article 14(1)(h) allows for the freedom of movement.

Furthermore, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to which Sri Lanka is a State Party to, by way of being a signatory and having ratified the Convention too imposes similar obligations on the Government of Sri Lanka, with regard to women and their rights.

The Ministry of Finance and Mass Media on 18 January re-imposed the ban by withdrawing the two Gazette Notifications issued under the Excise Ordinance earlier, which had lifted the ban on women buying liquor and working in places where liquor is manufactured or sold, in addition to relaxing the business hours of liquor establishments. Accordingly, the prohibition on selling liquor to women and employing women in places where liquor is manufactured or sold has been re-imposed under Excise Notification Number 4 of 2018 signed by Samaraweera. The other Gazette Extraordinary containing the Excise Notification No. 03 of 2018 has re-introduced the previous business hours for liquor establishments.

Mallawarachchi was not available for comment.

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