Sri Lanka women alcohol ban
Women are now allowed to work in places where alcohol is served Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters file photo

Sri Lanka has finally decided to lift the decades-long ban on women purchasing alcohol though consumption of liquor by women remains largely a taboo in the tiny island nation. Women aged 18 and above can now legally buy liquor in the country after amendment to a 1955 rule.

This also means women can now legally work in places where alcohol is served without any special approvals.

As per the earlier rule, "no liquor shall be sold or given to a woman within the premises of a tavern". This effectively prohibited women from either buying or being in possession of alcohol.

"Amended the schedule in the Excise Notification No 666 of the Gazette Extraordinary of 1979 to now allow females over 18 years to purchase alcohol legally & also to be employed in licensed premises without prior approval from the Excise Commissioner," wrote Sri Lanka's Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Twitter.

Even though the earlier rule was hardly ever enforced, the change is seen as a welcome sign in the country located in the southern tip of India. In Sri Lanka, the majority women do not consume alcohol, not due to the ban, but mainly because of cultural and religious taboos surrounding the issue.

Some have also expressed concerns that the withdrawal of the ban could lead to more women consuming alcohol. Two years ago, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said the number of women consuming liquor has "drastically" risen in recent years.

"The fact that this colonial law has managed to make it until today is a disgrace. Most of the alcohol-related laws here are based on either outdated moral values or religious pressure; not on facts and figures," a spokesperson for the Movement of Clear and Transparent Liquor Policy, told Russia Today.

"Alcohol consumption is very low among local women mainly due to cultural restrictions. We encourage the government to take a more fact and figure based approach and amend outdated laws to regulate the industry."