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Friday, February 23, 2024

Gender Discrimination in Sri Lanka Police: A Fourth Woman ASP Goes to Court

( Original Image: Sanka V)

Another woman Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) has filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court seeking an increase in cadre positions available to females in ranks of Superintendent of Police (SP) and above.

This brings to four the number of policewomen who have now sought the Court’s intervention against what they plead is gender bias in the Police Department. Recently, three others — all women ASPs — filed a petition pleading that they have rights against gender discrimination under the Constitution of Sri Lanka and several covenants and treaties that Sri Lanka has ratified.

The latest petition was filed by 49-year-old A.G.N.D. Seneviratne, who joined the Police Department in 1988 as Sub-Inspector. The petition, a copy of which was obtained from her lawyer J.C. Weliamuna, states that ASP Seneviratne served in the National Intelligence Bureau (now State Intelligence Service) throughout her career and “discharged duties similar and parallel to male officers” of the Police Department.

These included sensitive intelligence investigations. She also conducted internal disciplinary inquiries in respect of both male and female officers up to the rank of Chief Inspector.

ASP Seneviratne says she is willing to work in any part of the country. However, despite meeting all the criteria to be promoted to rank of SP, she has been disregarded in a list of recent promotions. This was because of “unfair and inexplicable discrimination” meted out to female police officers, she says.

For instance, there are only two cadre vacancies for female police officers in SP Grade II. The promotions to SP Grade II are made only on the number of available vacancies and exclusively on seniority. For women police officers, there is no career progression beyond the rank of SP except to reach the single SSP position allocated to them. There are no cadre positions for DIGs and Senior DIGs.

The status quo “demonstrates clear gender discrimination” although the petitioner has performed duties similar to that of male police officers, she pleads. In contrast, given the number of vacancies allocated to the male officers, all male officers with the prescribed qualifications will be promoted to SP Grade II.

These arguments were also contained in the previous petition filed by S.A. Renuka Jayasundara, W.J. Padmini and R.A. Darshika Kumari who are represented by the same Counsel. They state that they had made representations to the relevant authorities, including the former Inspector General of Police N.K. Illangakoon, and were assured of redress. However, a list containing only the names of male officers had been sent to the Ministry of Law and Order for promotion to the rank of SP Grade II.

“The Petitioners should be provided with the equal opportunity to be promoted to the rank of SP and other ranks above it, if they possess the required qualifications and service experience,” they hold. “The intentional limitation of females being promoted to the rank of SP and above is discouraging.”

The Petitioners request the Court to, among other things, declare that, in the Police Service, women officers are entitled to the same promotions as male officers in the same cadre without discrimination. The case will be considered on June 20.


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