Women in Sri Lanka will be allowed to legally buy alcohol for the first time in more than 60 years. On January 10, the country’s finance minister Mangala Samaraweera announced that the country is changing a discriminatory 1955 law that banned women from purchasing alcohol or working in a place that sells it.
The law wasn’t universally enforced in Sri Lanka, but having it in the books restricted women’s freedom across the country. Sri Lankan women celebrated the change shortly after the announcement, according to the BBC.
Samaraweera made the announcement over Twitter, explaining that the amendment allows “females over 18 years to purchase alcohol legally & also to be employed in licenced [sic] premises without prior approval from Excise Commissioner.” The change is happening under the watch of a Sri Lankan president who is actively working to create “a country free of intoxicants.”
Sri Lanka is a religious country, and the BBC reports that “a majority of women traditionally choose not to drink alcohol as they see it as contrary to Sri Lankan culture.” But whether women chose to drink or not, the 1955 law marginalized them and kept them out of any workplace with alcohol. The amendment opens doors in both lifestyle and employment opportunities for women in the nation that was the first modern country to elect a female head of state, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, in 1960.
It’s a step toward equality, and one that we can all raise a toast to.