A proposed reform to lift a 63-year-old ban on women buying alcohol and working in places that sell or manufacture liquor in Sri Lanka was overruled Sunday by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Speaking at a rally, Sirisena said he ordered the government to withdraw the motion, which would have granted women the same rights as men to buy alcohol and to work in bars without a state permit.
He claimed he found out about the reform through media sources after news of the move broke the wires on Wednesday.
The government had announced it would amend the 1979 law prohibiting the sale of any type of alcohol to women on the basis that it discriminated against women.
"The idea was to restore gender neutrality," one Sri Lankan told The French Press Agency.
Sirisena's announcement Sunday drew ire on social media. The president is in his third year in office and has been criticized for mixed messages on gender equality on the island of 21 million.
Sirisena said Sunday his decision was based on criticism received after Wednesday's announcement.
Buddhist leadership in the country was opposed to lifting the ban, citing a destructive effect women's alcohol consumption would have on family culture.
The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection accused the government of encouraging drinking.
Sirisena's announcement did not come as a surprise, in light of his anti-alcohol campaigns especially discouraging consumption by women.
Critics point to Sirisena's double standard, as he has boasted of efforts to involve more women in Sri Lanka's politics but seems set on keeping freedoms limited in aspects of social life.
You know it's bad for women in Sri Lanka when our Head of State- a man who regularly peddles "gender equality" on stage- thinks that men can make choices for us.— Duvindi Illankoon (@duvindi) January 14, 2018
And for anyone preparing to mock Sri Lankan women's outrage at being officially prohibited from buying alcohol, check your analysis. This is not just about this archaic sexist law but the archaic sexist system in which this law is just one more tool of control.— Subha W (@smwij88) January 14, 2018
Sri Lanka in its November budget unveiled steep tax hikes on hard liquor, but significantly reduced tariffs on wine and beer.