• Gang Raped Teenager Commits Suicide

    A 14-year-old girl who had been gang-raped by three young men committed suicide a day later. In the suicide note she left behind she d had named the men and blamed herself asking for forgiveness from her family and friends if she had done anything wrong.
    Rape and violence against women are reaching epidemic proportions in this country. Anecdotal evidence says that there is a rape every four hours; that three children are raped every three days and so on.
    According to Police statistics 2012 girls and women had been raped in 2016. Two hundred and forty eight (248) plaints have been filed, there have been no convictions while 2007 investigations were pending.

  • Sri Lankan Women too Scared to Seek Legal Post Abortion Care

    Abortion is illegal in almost all cases in Sri Lanka, but it’s perfectly legal for women to seek help after complications from backstreet abortions. Still, the fear of stigma and discrimination prevents many from coming forward.

    Abortion is illegal in almost all cases in Sri Lanka, but it’s perfectly legal for women to seek help after complications from backstreet abortions. Still, the fear of stigma and discrimination prevents many from coming forward.

    Post Abortion Care

    In 2015, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health issued new guidelines on comprehensive post-abortion care for healthcare workers. The guidelines stipulate that any woman who undergoes an illegal abortion can seek medical care for complications, if needed, at any government facility without fearing prosecution. The guidelines also allow selected government hospitals to use misoprostol for incomplete abortions.

    “When women used to come to the hospital after an abortion, we used to have to inform the police, and then the police would come and threaten patients and demand bribes,” a gynecologist in Jaffna, who wanted to remain anonymous, told News Deeply.

    “We never report cases to the police [now] but women don’t know they can come [here] without fear.”

    In addition to providing medical services, post-abortion care covers the provision of counseling, education and family planning services to help women prevent future unwanted pregnancies.

    There are no official figures on the number of illegal abortions that take place every year in Sri Lanka, but estimates suggest that up to 650 are carried out every day.

    Dr Kapila Jayaratne, national program manager for maternal and child morbidity and mortality surveillance at the Family Health Bureau, said deaths from unsafe abortions had significantly declined since the introduction of abortion drugs, which began to be smuggled into Sri Lanka from India and Bangladesh in 2008.

    Previously, coat hangers, bicycle parts or papaya leaves were the most common methods of unsafe abortions, which can often lead to sepsis and death.

    Yet, while the tablets are available on the black market, many women aren’t given accurate information about how to take them, which can lead to complications.

    Liberalizing Abortion Laws in Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka has one of South Asia’s strictest abortion laws: The procedure is only allowed to save the woman’s life. However, in August this year, the cabinet approved a draft bill allowing abortion under two circumstances: When the fetus is diagnosed with a lethal congenital malformation or when the pregnancy is the result of rape.

    The bill still needs to be approved by parliament, and experts don’t know when – or if – that will happen.

    Public health experts, doctors and activists have welcomed the proposed amendment that has been a long time in the making. However, it has been met with fierce opposition, primarily from religious bodies.

    “The proposal to amend the law dates back to 2010 when we were lobbying the government to reduce deaths from unsafe abortion and legalize full abortion, but nothing happened,” said Dr. Sanath Lanerolle, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at Castle St Hospital for Women in Colombo.

    “The Catholic Church controls politics. This is in the hands of politicians, not doctors. I see a lot of pregnancies from rape. The amendment would change the quality of women’s lives drastically.”

    If the amendment is approved, it means that women like Pabita could legally seek an abortion.

    The gynecologist in Jaffna said he was so disillusioned by Sri Lanka’s strict abortion laws that he was performing surgical abortions and giving out medical abortion tablets to those in need.

    “I’m taking justice into my hands,” he said

    He said that one out of four pregnant women who come to see him ask for an abortion. He doesn’t perform them in every case; he tries to counsel some women to keep the baby. But in cases of rape, incest, pregnant teenagers, women who have numerous children or those can’t afford to raise another child, he will often agree to their requests.

    “I consider termination for the benefit of the patient. We need to let women have the right to decide what they want to do,” he said.

  • Why are Sri Lankan Employers Reluctant to Recruit Females?

    According to the Labour Demand Survey – 2017 of the Department of Census and Statistics, employers in the private sector fight shy of recruiting females because of their family commitments, lack of dedication, absenteeism, maternity leave and relaxation of working hours, lack of required vocational/ professional qualifications, inability or reluctance to face challenges, higher labour turnover, security issues and work location, in that order.


  • Gender in the Global Research Landscape

    A report on the analysis of research performance through a gender lens across 20 years, 27 geographies, and 27 subject areas prepared by Elsevier  

    Key findings of the study are: the proportion of women among researchers and inventors is increasing in all twelve comparator counties and researchers over time:  Women publish fewer research papers on average than men, but there is no evidence that this affects how their papers are cited or downloaded. Women are less likely than men to collaborate internationally on research papers.  Women are slightly less likely than men to collaborate across the academic and corporate sectors on research papers. In general, women’s scholarly output includes a slightly larger proportion of highly interdisciplinary research than men’s. Among researchers, women are generally less internationally mobile than men. Gender research is growing in terms of size and complexity, with new topics emerging over time. The former dominance of the United States in gender research has declined as research activity in the European Union has risen.


  • School Teacher Wins Case against School Principal for Sexual Harassment

    A sexual harassment application filed by a female teacher in the supreme Court in 2012 against the principal and other 11 other respondents under Article 12 and 126 of the Constitution was found in favour of the petitioner. The harassment had occurred since 2007/

    The two of the respondents – the principal and a male teacher from the school were ordered to pay compensation.

  • Encountering SDGs and Climate Change Challenges – Roundtable for Women Professionals


    The Centre for Women’s Research, Sri Lanka Water Partnership, NetWwater, and the National Committee on Women will hold a Roundtable for Women Water Professionals- Encountering SDGs and Climate Change Challenges,  on the 22nd of December 2017 at the Centre for Women’s Research, Colombo 5, from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm.

    The purpose of this activity is to identify critical future challenges in relation to SDGs and possible points of intervention into the proposed Gender Action Plan of the Climate Change Secretariat, the focal point of the United Nations Framework on Climate change (UNFCC) , with a group of selected women’s organizations and women water professionals (especially mid level women water professionals) from different disciplines.



    The UNDP’s annual campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Gender based Violence, starts on the 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on the 10th of December, the Human Rights Day.

    The National Forum against Gender based Violence started its public campaign under the theme Elect Her. End Violence, as the very low political representation of women in Sri Lanka, is in part attributed to violence.

  • Twenty Five Percent Quota for Women at Local Government

    The recently passed Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act, No. 1 of 2016, introduced a 25% mandatory quota for women. Representation of women in Sri Lankan political structures is the lowest in South Asia.  They had only 4% of seats in Provincial Councils and 1.9% in local government. In 2017 the Inter Parliamentary Union ranking of women in Parliament, Sri Lanka was placed 180 out of 190 countries.

    The new amendment has increased the number of seats at local level by 25% from 6,619 to 8,825.  This is the increase that will be available for women candidates nominated by political parties on a separate list according to the proportion of votes obtained by each party at the local council elections. Seats will be allocated according to the order of priority on this list as decided by the party.  The number of women will increase dramatically from the present 90  to over 2,000. Although there are limitations such as the status quo or incumbency of male politicians, the dichotomy between women’s seats and general seats, and power to the political party has over the selections, this is just a beginning towards women’s equal representation.

  • The Wounded Victims of Sri Lanka’s Marriage Law

    In Sri Lanka the legal marriage age is 18, but under a decades-old community law, much younger Muslim girls can get married. As calls grow for this law to be amended, BBC Sinhala’s Saroj Pathirana meets one young girl forced to marry against her will.

    When Shafa* was 15, she was forced to get married. “While studying for exams, I fell in love with a boy,” Shafa said, tears running down her cheeks.

    “My parents did not like it. They sent me to my uncle’s place. While I was studying there, a regular visitor told my aunt and uncle that he wanted to marry me.”

    Shafa, who comes from a Muslim family and lives in a remote village in Sri Lanka, refused. She wanted to marry the boy she loved, after completing her secondary school education.

    But despite her objections, her uncle and aunt arranged for her to marry their friend.

    Whenever she objected to the marriage, she was beaten. Her uncle and aunt even threatened to kill themselves if she did not listen to them.

    “I cut my arms as there was no other option,” said Shafa, pulling up her sleeves to show the scars. “I also took some pills from my uncle’s place.

    “While I was being treated in hospital, they bribed the doctors and took me – together with my saline bottle – to a private hospital. A few days later they forced me to marry that man.” Shafa decided to stay with her young husband as she could see no escape but he suspected she was continuing her relationship with her boyfriend.

    “He regularly beat me,” she said. “When I told him that I was pregnant, he picked me up and threw me to the floor.

    “He then told me that he only wanted me for the one night, he’d already had me and didn’t need me any more.”

    It was at the hospital that she realised she had lost her baby as a result of the violence.

    When Shafa went to the police, they did not take her complaint seriously.

    One day she got a call from the mosque in the village. There, her husband agreed to continue the marriage but she refused.

    A few days later, she started getting phone calls and text messages from strangers, asking how much she charged to sleep with them.

    Shafa realised that her husband had published her photograph and telephone number on social media. The callers threatened her with filthy language and told her: “We got your number from your husband.”

    “I recorded all these calls. And I still have all the text messages,” said Shafa, who could not stop crying but was determined to tell her story.

    Shafa’s father did not want to get involved with what was happening.

    But Shafa’s mother is now taking her daughter to a social welfare centre so she can get psychological and legal help in the wake of her traumatic marriage.

    They visit the centre in secret because openly seeking psychological help is still a taboo in Sri Lanka.

    Shafa’s mother supports her five children by doing daily labour jobs in the village. She was evicted from her hometown by Tamil Tiger separatist rebels in 1990.

    “I sent my daughter to my brother’s place due to one incident. I never thought this would happen to her,” she said.

    She says she objected to her daughter being forced to marry but her brother did not listen to her.

    “It was a forced marriage,” she said. “I fear for her safety and her education now [because of the lies her husband has spread about her]. She can’t go to classes. She can’t even travel on a bus. Her whole future is uncertain.”

    Every year, hundreds of girls like Shafa from Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority are forced to get married by their parents or guardians.

    Human rights lawyer Ermiza Tegal says Muslim child marriages have gone up from 14% to 22% within a year in the eastern province, a rise attributed to increased conservatism.

    Shafa was 15 years old but Muslim women’s groups have documented girls as young as 12 being forced into marriage.

    Sri Lanka’s common law does not allow underage marriages. The legal age is 18. But a decades-old community law called the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) allows Muslim community leaders, who are mostly men, to decide the marriage age.

    There is no minimum age, although a marriage involving a girl under 12 requires special permission from an Islamic magistrate.

    Girls and their mothers have suffered in silence for decades but Muslim women activists are now coming forward to seek reform of the MMDA, despite serious threats from mullahs and other conservative community leaders.

    Child marriage: the facts

    • One in three women in the developing world are married before they reach the age of 18
    • The nations with the highest rates of child marriage are Niger (76%), Central African Republic (68%) and Chad (68%)
    • As a region, South Asia has the highest rate of child marriage – 17% of women are married by the age of 15 and 45% by the age of 18
    • Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriage in the region (52%), followed by India (47%), Nepal (37%) and Afghanistan (33%)
    • In Sri Lanka child marriage rates are at 2% by 15 and 12% by 18
    • Globally all but six countries specify minimum marriage ages – but many make exceptions on religious or other grounds, and in some nations laws are ignored

    Sources: Girls Not Brides; Pew Research Centre

    Sri Lanka plans to reform its constitution and so activists believe now is the moment to act.

    The United Nations and the EU have also recently urged the government to amend the MMDA and other discriminatory laws.

    But there is not a lot of hope, because a committee set up by the government nearly 10 years ago to look into MMDA reform failed to come up with any concrete proposals.

    Muslim groups such as Jamiyathul Ulama and Thawheed Jamaath have long resisted the call for change.

    Thawheed Jamaath treasurer BM Arshad said the organisation supported reforming the MMDA as long as proposals came from within the community, but it opposed setting a minimum marriage age.

    “Neither Islam nor Thawheed Jamaath accept child marriages,” said Mr Arshad. “But Thawheed Jamaath will never agree to setting a minimum age for marriage.

    “The need for the girl to get married should be the criteria for a marriage,” he said. “Some girls may not need to get married even after 18 years of age. It is the right of the person getting married to decide when they do.”

    He denied accusations that his organisation threatens Muslim women activists.
    The centre Shafa and her mother attend has helped more than 3,000 Muslim women with various issues over the last three years, including 250 child marriage victims.

    “I have to stay away from home because of the threats from men,” said the social worker who runs the centre. “I’m afraid to send my children to school.

    “I have had to stay in my office and now I’m even afraid to take a tuk tuk home.”

    Activist Shreen Abdul Saroor of the Women’s Action Network (WAN) was one of the few Muslim women who dared to reveal her face and her identity.

    “Child marriage is statutory rape,” she said. She insists that 18 years should be the legal marriage age for all communities in Sri Lanka, irrespective of their nationality or religion.

    A child is not physically mature enough to give birth to another child and they miss out on their education, she says.

    “When we look at these children getting married, it affects the whole community. The whole community goes backward,” said Ms Saroor.

    “My message to the Muslim community and religious leaders is please do not destroy the childhood of these children.”

    Despite her trauma, Shafa was always a brilliant student and was determined to resume her studies. Her family hope she can get a good job but she still faces many challenges.

    “Boys regularly come to me and make rude jokes when I go to tuition classes,” she says. “This is serious harassment. I feel down. I’m helpless. I don’t know what to do.”

    But she refuses to let the bullies win, saying she wants to be a lawyer.

    “Is it because you want to help other victims like you?” I asked. “Yes,” she said.

    As her smiling eyes meet mine, I sense her determination.

    *Shafa’s name has been changed to protect her privacy


  • “Illegal migrants mainly face issues “

    The foreign employment sector is still the largest foreign exchange earner of the country. On an average, 250,000 persons annually migrate to foreign countries seeking better employment. Of the total number of Sri Lankans working abroad over 90% are employed in Middle Eastern countries, according to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment. Commenting on the current situation of the foreign employment, Foreign Employment Ministry Secretary G.S. Withanage says the Government is paying more attention to promote foreign employment for skilled and professional categories.

    In an interview with the ‘Dailymirror’, Mr. Withanage pointed out that only 2-3 % of the entire labour migration force have faced serious negative issues. “Unfortunately a few negative cases get highlighted in the media ignoring the 97% which are successful,” he pointed out.

    Commenting on Sri Lankans who return after working abroad for years, particularly in low skilled jobs, Mr. Withanage said that the Ministry is in the process of drafting a sub policy in order to support these returnees to reintegrate into their own communities.

    He emphasized that unless the local labour market is ready to provide similar economic benefits, people would continue to migrate for foreign employment.

    He shared the following:

    Isolation of Qatar by other Middle Eastern countries has created panic among Sri Lankans working in Qatar. Foreign Employment Minister Thalatha Athukorale in her statement said there are nearly 140,000 SL expats. How safe are our people caught up in the middle of this debacle? 

    It is a regional issue. Sri Lankans working in the country are not affected. If any Sri Lankan wishes to return home, they must inform the SL Embassy and can make necessary arrangements. Otherwise, Qatar, as a country, has taken up all measures to face any food shortages or essential supplies. We are constantly watching the progress. If a need arises to move Sri Lankans out of Qatar, we can arrange that quickly. Air travel is as usual to and from Qatar. So we do not see any threats to the Sri Lankan expats.

    There are several stories we hear from time to time about men and women go missing after reaching Middle East seeking semi- skilled or unskilled jobs. What is exactly happening to these people? 

    This is actually a small percentage of the total number of people who migrate seeking foreign employment. It can be estimated around 2-3 % of the total. Unfortunately a few negative cases get highlighted in the media ignoring 97% which are successful. If you have a holistic view on the entire scenario of the Sri Lankan labour migration, majority of the people have enhanced their lives, elevated the living standards of their families, built houses, educated their children and so many successful stories behind them.    And, majority of those who encounter trouble in the foreign land, are people who have migrated without registering with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE). They did not choose the proper path to migrate. We request the public that if they wish to migrate for foreign employment, they must first register themselves locally with the SLBFE.

    Exit Permit

    Major legal barriers in obtaining ‘exit visa’ There were reports of hundreds of Sri Lankans returning home from Kuwait after being held up in safe houses sponsored by the Government. What are the steps taken by the Government to assist all the migrant workers living in the so-called safe houses to return home?  

    It is not only from Kuwait. We are making all possible efforts to bring Sri Lankans who are now living in safe houses in the ME countries. They were taken into the safe houses for various reasons, such as issues with their employers and breach of contract and some due to over staying their visa. To bring them back to Sri Lanka, there are legal barriers. For this we need to get the exit visa, and for that, we need clearance from the respective employers. We must have a proper dialogue, consultation with the employers in this matter. The employers must give his/her consent to return the employees home. These negotiations are done through our diplomatic missions and the labour counsellor attached to the mission in the respective countries. In most of these cases, employers do not allow the employees to return based on various reasons. Then we need to look for alternative methods. According to our diplomatic missions, if the employer does not give any valid reason, the option is to negotiate with the Ministry of Labour, the Department of Labour or any other Government authority responsible for labour issues in that country or its Police Department. With the clearance from the Department of Labour or the Police, we do have the possibility to proceed for the exit visa. This is a time consuming effort.

    There is an allegation against the Government for not deploying adequate number of officials at our diplomatic missions to serve the large number of SL expats. The counsellors and officials appointed through your Ministry and the SLBFE seems inadequate to cater the SL expats in those countries. What steps the Ministry has taken to rectify this issue? 

    We are looking into this issue quite seriously. We want to increase the cadre. Yet, there are procedures and protocols to follow as a Government institute. We cannot increase the numbers independently. We need the approval of the Finance Ministry and the Management Services Department. We have already informed them in writing, giving them the reasons behind our request and had discussions with the relevant officials. The process is underway. We strongly believe there is a distinct possibility of our request being approved. After that we can start recruiting more suitable people to these posts. We may not be able to recruit the exact number of officials whom we need. Because it would incur a big cost.

    A new system was proposed by Saudi Arabia at the fourth ministerial consultancy under the Abu Dhabi Dialogue held in Colombo recently to introduce a special system that can e-register migrant workers and trace their whereabouts online. Has it been implemented or what is the current situation? 

    This is the MUSANED system. It registers all details of the worker migrating to Saudi Arabia including details such as recruitment agency, employer’s name and address, worker’s details etc. A pilot project was conducted and found to be successful. The SL Govt was keen to get actively involved as it serves a safety net for the Sri Lankans. The results and observations of the pilot project were presented at the senior officials’ meetings and the Fourth Ministerial Consultation held under the Abu Dhabi Dialogue. (The international event was held in January, 2017 in Colombo) Representatives of Saudi Arabian delegation conducted an awareness programme to the Sri Lankan stakeholders including recruitment agencies. These data need to be filled online and a part of this responsibility is with the recruitment agencies. It is of utmost importance that correct data should be given.

    Sri Lankan Government has given the consent for the system and we are waiting for Saudi Arabia to fully implement it. If this gets implemented soon, it will be for the benefit of both the countries.    Migrating men are requested a confirmation statement on family welfare

    The Government implemented stringent regulations to the family background report which has an effect on women migrating as domestic aides and care givers. Is this now implemented? 

    Yes, it is. The Cabinet of Ministers took a decision to appoint a committee at the ground level headed by the Divisional Secretary and several other officials. The development officer of that particular division will analyse the forms filled by women who wish to migrate and forward a report to the Divisional Secretary. The committee headed by the Divisional Secretary will evaluate these reports and issue recommendations. Since it is a Cabinet decision, it is a directive by the Govt. We, as a ministry, are obliged to adhere to Govt decisions.

     Majority of the women migrating for jobs are battered by poverty. This may be their best solution to stabilize the family economy. Currently there aren’t any successful programmes that provide employment for them. Doesn’t the family background report restrict a woman’s right to choose her employment and her right to economic empowerment? 

    We cannot restrict any persons’ right of choice and the right to mobility. But the Govt took a decision based on certain social implications, particularly considering mothers having children younger than  five years of age. The sole aim is to protect the children and safeguard the family unit. If it fails, the entire social structure fails. Yet, the Govt has given a directive to monitor this process for six months and then evaluate and analyse pros and cons. It will happen through the SLBFE in a few months. It will include the effect on people and on the officials concerned as well. We will have to wait and see the review report and then decide. I have already instructed the SLBFE to study the process and conduct a proper research. Solid research based data will lead to a more accurate decision.    And the other factor is that we have taken a decision to request from fathers having children younger than five years of age and planning to migrate for work, a statement ascertaining the safety and the welfare of his children. He should indicate in writing about who will take care of the children, how will their welfare measures get fulfilled etc. Though this will not be as strict as the family background report, we plan to implement it in the near future.

    Lost a few job markets but new venues to open up  

    In the recent budgets – 2016 and 2017, gave decisions to standardize the wages for expats. Accordingly, it stipulated a minimum salary in foreign employment. Has this been implemented? And if so, how will it be implemented? 

    In 2016, the Govt took a decision to make the minimum wage limit for the migrant workers to be 300 US dollars. That we implemented. In the 2017 budget, the Govt had decided to increase it to 350 USD. With this increase, Sri Lanka faced several consequences. We lost a few markets. The decrease is not only in the ME countries, but in other labour receiving countries like Malaysia where there was a demand for skilled workers. In countries like Malaysia, even their own citizens earn on an average which is less than 350 USD. Mega scale companies of those countries which are directly dealing with the SL authorities in recruiting Sri Lankans have informed us about their concern and that they will lower the number of recruitments. Labour migration is very competitive and there are several other labour demand countries that are willing to send their citizens as workers to a much lesser salary. Yet, we as a country, also need to be concerned about the standards on which we send our citizens as migrant workers.

    Skilled professionals had been migrating for better employment over the past. But since recent times, the Govt, through the SLBFE, started to promote foreign employment for certain professions such as nursing. What is the plan? 

    Professionals will gain better job opportunities in a more regularized manner. This is not only nursing. There are demands for trained professionals in many fields. Overall we are giving a lot of effort to promote the skilled category. The conditions are more favourable for Sri Lankans who wish to migrate for employment. Through better trainings we are also trying to elevate the professional levels of those who migrate for lower skilled categories.    We need to diversify the job markets rather than concentrating on the Middle East. We have already received positive responses from countries like Germany and Japan. There is a huge demand for caregivers. German companies providing caregiver services have extended their willingness to sign agreements with the SLBFE to recruit suitable people as caregivers. We are in discussion with several such companies in Japan as well. These countries are ready to provide training as well for suitable candidates. If these plans turn positive, we do not have to depend on the ME job market.  In addition, an Australian private institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the SLBFE to train Sri Lankans in nursing and caregiver professions. The agency has a much wider network attached to job markets. Their focus is not only in Australia but the network is linked to countries like South Africa and several ME countries. The negotiations with the private companies were conducted through the SLBFE and the Australian High Commission in Colombo. This institute is already established in India and looking to expand the service to Sri Lanka. These positive responses have been very supportive in our efforts to promote jobs in the skilled category.

    Factories in foreign countries, particularly in the garment sector are recruiting Sri Lankan workers directly. There is a significant demand as SL has experienced skilled labour in the apparel sector. Does the Govt have a special authority or a system to oversee this new booming labour migration trend? 

    There is no specific authority. Yet whoever migrates to any foreign country for employment, and whatever the sector is, must register with the SLBFE. Even the agencies related to this recruitment must be registered with the authority just like any other recruitment agency does. They cannot work independently. They must follow the established rules and regulations.

    There were reports that stated job opportunities for Sri Lankans in Israel had been affected due to illegal overstay. What is the situation now? 

    Major legal barriers in obtaining ‘exit visa’

    The problem still exists. Sri Lankans who migrate for agriculture seasons in Israel have not adhered to agreements. Normally when the employer wants the same employee for work again, he/she should request for them. So there is always a chance for efficient workers to continually get the job opportunity. But due to what many Sri Lankans have done they have created a lot of problems and this would cut down the job opportunities. If this condition continues, we will lose this job market. Therefore we will take stern action against this visa overstay.

    Professionals with experience migrate for better job opportunities and they claim that they do not get registered with the SLBFE. Almost all are recruited by the employer directly. How is this situation covered by the ministry and the SLBFE? 

    Most of persons in this category are now registering with the SLBFE. A few years ago the numbers were very low. But we see that more skilled professionals do register with the authorities.

    The common norm among people who migrate to work, irrelevant of their work category, state that they find no importance in registering with the SLBFE or getting the medical insurance, as they do not feel that this system properly protects them during their tenure. What are your comments on this? 

    It is not a correct decision. If they migrate with proper registration, we know where they are. If there is any trouble we can contact them easily. When a problem occurs they need the Government protection. I did come across certain cases where professionals had issues with their employer and they had no registration back in Sri Lanka. When problems arise the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission in that country is informed. Whether these Sri Lankans are registered or not, our embassies have the capacity to protect them being citizens of this country. The diplomatic missions will do that since it is their obligation and responsibility. These professionals, had they been registered with the SLBFE, we are also in a strong position to support them at difficult times, be they financial or legal. The Sri Lankan Government can intervene without any obstacle.    When a person registers before migrating, every document related will be registered with the SLBFE, even the employment contract is registered. Therefore if there are any violations with conditions stipulated in the contract or any other issue negatively affecting the worker, the Sri Lankan authorities are at a stronger position to defend the worker. As long as the working conditions are positive the employee will not feel the importance of this. But when trouble arrives it does help to protect their rights.

    Drafting a sub policy on reintegration of the returnees   

    What is the progress in the reintegration programme for those who return from foreign jobs, especially from unskilled and semi-skilled categories? 

    We are in the process of drafting a sub policy on reintegration of the returnees back in to their communities. We have a policy on labour migration but as the number of people returning from  foreign employment is increasing, there should be a Govt policy to address their issues as well. If we manage to finalize it soon, Sri Lanka will be the first country in South Asia to have a Sub Policy on Reintegration of Returnees. That policy will include all segments considering financial advice, healthcare and welfare of the families of these returnees. To those who wish to migrate again for foreign employment, there will be skill upgrading programmes empowering them to go for a better choice of work.

    The Sri Lankan labour market does not provide enough manpower to ongoing development work. There is a dearth in the Sri Lankan labour market. And the number of people migrating as semi-skilled and unskilled is on the rise. How can this be addressed? 

    This depends on the demand and the supply. If the industries who are in need of labour are able to pay the workers a salary similar or at least close to what they are capable of earning through foreign employment, then people will get attracted to local job opportunities. It will be more beneficial for them to work within the country rather going abroad leaving behind their families. Until this demand is met, it is difficult to stop people migrating for foreign employment.    And in particular, people migrating for jobs in the skilled category earn a very high salary compared to what is offered back home. Even in the new venues that are opened for Sri Lankans in countries like Israel, the jobs in the agriculture sector, offer a very high salary. Sri Lankans who are skilled in agricultural work, can earn a decent amount within a season which is usually for 6 – 7 months. They can earn a salary more than an executive officer in the public sector. This is a major economic benefit to those people and their families.    Political authorities also question us asking what could be done. Nothing else could be done but to match this demand. We cannot stop people’s movement seeking better economic prosperity.

    Source: Dhaneshi Yatawara, Illegal migrants mainly face issues, Daily MIrror 17-06-13

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