In a U-turn, the Sri Lankan Cabinet on Tuesday decided to reimpose the 39-year-old "sexist" law banning women from buying alcohol or working in places that sell or manufacture liquor.
It also decided to reduce the extended opening hours for bars and pubs announced last week.
A finance ministry official on January 12 had announced lifting of the 1979 law that prohibited the sale of any type of alcohol to women on the island of 21 million people in an effort to strike off retrograde laws from the statute books and reorganise them to meet the modern day needs.
The move had revoked sharp criticism from nationalists and Buddhist monks who termed it an attack on the Sinhala majority Buddhist culture.
"The Cabinet has decided to rescind the gazette notification (on lifting of ban)," Minister of Ports and Shipping Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters.
Addressing a public rally on Saturday last, President Maithripala Sirisena had said that he was against the move and wanted the gazette notification to be cancelled.
He said he was against promoting alcoholism and demeaning the women by linking them to the alcohol business.
Critics have accused the president of not taking gender equality seriously.
"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," the BBC quoted a Sri Lankan blogger as saying.
Sri Lanka's Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, in his budget proposals for 2018, had unveiled steep tax rise on hard liquor, but greatly reduced tariffs on wine and beer, for which he also came under fire.
Under new measures, also passed by Samaraweera, bars and pubs can remain open an hour late, till 10 pm.
Announcing the measures, the finance minister had said that strict curbs on Sri Lanka's licenced liquor manufacturers only encouraged a black market for spirits, and deprive the state of much-needed revenue.