President Maithripala Sirisena’s move to reimpose the ban on the sale of liquor to women has brought in its wake a poser for the Tourism Ministry: Can female tourists buy beer, wine or any liquor at any hotel, restaurant, bar or retail outlet.
According to what was a dormant law, women were not permitted to buy alcohol – it did not specify if they had to be Sri Lankan citizens or foreigners. With Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera dusting this silent law and reversing it and then President Sirisena countermanding that reversal by restoring the ban, it has raised the issue of whether thousands of female tourists visiting Sri Lanka will get caught up in the prohibition.
The law is also silent on whether women, local or foreign, consuming any alcohol product is prohibited. A Tourism Ministry official said, “As the law stands, they (foreign female tourists) are prohibited”. The official also said that female tourists were also buying their liquor requirements from duty free shops at the airport upon arrival in Sri Lanka. This practice, he said, had continued.
The Ministry is to raise issue on the matter with the Presidential Secretariat and seek a ruling, the official added.