Reforming Abortion Laws in Sri Lanka: A Socio-Legal Approach with Special Reference to Rights of Women

  • Karawita Arachchige Akalanka Nuwan Thilakarathna and Nisanka Madhubhashini Jayarathna
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  • Karawita Arachchige Akalanka Nuwan Thilakarathna

    Lecturer at Department of Public and International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka

  • Nisanka Madhubhashini Jayarathna

    Senior Lecturer at Department of Law, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Open University, Nawala, Sri Lanka

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Abortion while being a common occurrence has remained a controversial issue as it has been viewed as something inherently evil and vicious both in the cultural as well as religious context. This attitude is further established by the laws and policies of some countries where abortion is seen as a criminal offence including Sri Lanka. Despite having very strict laws and instances upon which an abortion may be legally permitted, where the Sri Lankan law only allows an abortion to be carried out without attracting criminal liability when it is done in good faith to protect the life of the mother, the incidents of illegal abortions have risen dramatically over the years and it has posed serious questions concerning the rights of women inclusive of right to life and healthcare. This has led to the need of reforming the existing laws on abortions. Therefore, using a qualitative methodology with three selected case studies, this research seeks to propose recommendations at reforming the existing laws on abortion by utilizing a socio-legal approach. The results reveal that, while there have been many previous attempts at reforming the laws related to abortion, they have all failed and even such proposals have not really taken a wholistic approach at providing a viable solution to the problem. Case studies have revealed that mere relaxation of the grounds upon which an abortion may be permitted are very much insufficient in addressing the needs of those who seek an abortion. Therefore, it is recommended that issues such as availability of information regarding abortions, pre and post abortion care, support in the decision-making process as well as protecting the service providers and women who obtain abortions services are all vital considerations that needs to be considered in reforming the existing laws on abortion. Therefore, it is concluded that utilizing a socio-legal approach at addressing these issues is the best available mechanism for tackling this issue which would help to both protect and advance the rights of women regarding their bodily integrity and rights to self-determination.




International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 2, Page 250 - 289


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