Sri Lanka lifts ban on alcohol sales to women

COLOMBO • Women over the age of 18 in Sri Lanka are now allowed to buy alcohol and work in places where liquor is produced and sold.

The government said it was amending a 1955 law that it agreed was discriminatory against women.

The law had stated that any alcoholic drink, including wine, could not be sold to women, reported Xinhua news agency. Women were also required to get the approval of the state's excise commissioner to work "in licensed premises", including restaurants.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera signed the notification revoking the ban to restore gender equality and promote tourism, the Ministry of Mass Media and Finance said last Thursday. The government also decided to allow liquor outlets to stay open an hour later, until 10pm.

The ban was not always strictly enforced, reported BBC.

Many women refrain from drinking due to cultural and religious norms in Sri Lanka, which is a predominantly Buddhist nation. Ms Michele Ruth Gamburd, a researcher in Sri Lanka, told Voice of America: "When I asked why women do not drink, often Buddhism was raised as a reason."

In April last year, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said the government's move to cut alcohol and tobacco consumption has been successful as revenue from tobacco and liquor taxes had gone down for the first time in history, reported The Daily Mirror newspaper. He has blamed the use of alcohol and tobacco for rising poverty and deterioration of health among the poor.

Following the official announcement, some people took to social media to ask whether the change might lead to more women becoming addicted to alcohol, while others thanked the government for its decision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 14, 2018, with the headline 'Sri Lanka lifts ban on alcohol sales to women'. Print Edition | Subscribe