Rebuttal to the press Statment by Professor Induragare Dammarathana Thero

Pursuant to the statements made by the Ven. Professor Induragare Dammarathana Thero on 27th March 2018
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Our letter to the Ven. Professor Induragare Dammarathana Thero is as follows:

30th March 2018

Professor Induragare Dammarathana Thero,
Sabanayake
544/A, Nawala Road,
Rajagiriya

Honourable Thero,

Response to your statement made on 27.03.2018 at a press conference in relation to a project allegedly aiming to teach homosexuality to preschool children, titled ‘Think Equal’

EQUAL GROUND is an organization striving for social, political and cultural rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning community living in Sri Lanka. The foremost objective of EQUAL GROUND as an organization, is to create an environment which allows Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) persons to live freely without any form of discrimination or harassment. According to the Penal Code of Sri Lanka, handed down to us by the British Colonisers in 1833, LGBTIQ persons in Sri Lanka are treated as criminals and deviants based on an archaic British Colonial law, and are subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence in various settings such as education, health care, employment, justice and social services. Because the LGBTIQ community are different to what society demands of them, they are frequently deterred from due social services that may be easily accessible by those who do not identify as LGBTIQ.

Hence, EQUAL GROUND strives to render these persons with services with regard to accessing proper educational opportunities, obtaining healthcare services, providing legal assistance, protection from police torture & mistreatment and providing psychological assistance, with no discrimination. EQUAL GROUND has been conscious that the kinds of misleading information that emanates from various sections of society, such as “all homosexuals are paedophiles” has prevented our organisation from working with schools and those under the age of 18 as we fear there would be a backlash, such as expressed by your good self recently, that we intend to defile young children and ‘convert’ them to homosexuality or that we are all paedophiles and intend using these children for our own perverted reasons. Nothing is further from the truth – EQUAL GROUND has always presented itself in a professional manner, teaching and educating and engaging in thought provoking discussion.

You had mentioned the name of EQUAL GROUND in a press release where you spoke about a program carried out by an organization named ‘Think Equal’ which allegedly targets preschool children. We would like to inform you, with all due respect, that EQUAL GROUND has no affiliation whatsoever with Think Equal and we bear absolutely no responsibility for any of the programs executed by Think Equal. Moreover, we practice transparency in and accept liability for all programs executed by us for the LGBTIQ community above the age of 18.

We are willing to grant any person the right to inspect or question any human rights related program conducted by EQUAL GROUND. We are more than prepared to meet and discuss these issues with you, the honorable theros and the Maha Sangha regarding this issue.

Furthermore, we would very much like to draw your kind attention towards many forms of day-to-day harassments presently faced by sexual and gender minorities in Sri Lanka. In addition, we would like to emphasize the fact that, a majority of the hundreds of persons belonging to the LGBTIQ community who encounter various hardships due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, commit suicide and suffer from mental breakdowns because of such issues. Many very bright and professional LGBTIQ persons have decided to leave the country and offer their very needed services to other countries – most of them are our own Sinhala-Buddhist people. We, as a society, have to face the challenge of protecting them from being exploited, abused and sentenced. We would like to discuss our knowledge and experience acquired through working for and with the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka for over 14 years and show you Venerable Thero, that these persons are also humans and deserving of the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution.

It has been clarified and confirmed by international experts such as The World Psychiatrists’ Association and the World Health Organization for example, that homosexuality is neither a mental illness nor an addiction but a characteristic set at birth based on one’s genetic and psychological structure. It is our belief that harassing and violating LGBTIQ persons’ rights and stigmatizing them is against the fundamental teachings of Buddhism. As stated by you, we as Buddhists should and must treat every living being with compassion and loving-kindness and ensure social equality and an environment which lets persons of every ethnicity, religion, cast, class, sexual orientation and Gender identity, to live equally. It is unfortunate that in Sri Lanka, a premier Buddhist country, the actuality is that equality does not exist. Sri Lankans of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities have to await justice for their communities. For that endeavor, we anticipate your limitless compassion and blessings.

Lastly, with all due respect, we would like to re-assure that we are not affiliated with Think Equal. We wish success for all your endeavors!

Please feel free to contact us by telephone on 011-2806186 or on email at equalground@gmail.com. It would be a pleasure to be able to have a discussion with you on this matter.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera,
Executive Director,
EQUAL GROUND

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Celebrating International Women's Day 2018

Breaking the barriers and rising above the cacophony of patriarchy and heteronormativity should be every woman’s mantra, whether young or old. While we celebrate the women of today that are shattering the glass ceilings, we need to give a thought to all those women who are bound and gagged by societal and cultural ‘norms’ indoctrinated by patriarchy and heteronormativity, clipped of their wings and their desire to fly. These women are a silent, forgotten and shunned minority – the lesbians, bisexual and transgender women in this country.

Women in Sri Lanka, despite the unfair societal value assigned to them, contribute greatly, not only to uplift the economy of the country but also to build a vibrant and just society. They are our mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and wives. They are doctors, engineers, pilots and so much more. Being women and queer; lesbian, bisexual and trans women are further devalued, marginalized and stigmatized on a daily basis and we, as a society, unfortunately, remains nonchalant and uncaring of their fates.
On this International Women’s Day, we should remind ourselves that a society without women is a society incomplete. We must all stand up for the women in our lives, whether lesbian, heterosexual, Transgender or gender queer. We must celebrate their journeys, their achievements, their stories. As women of all sexual orientations we must make ourselves heard, we must make ourselves count.

In celebration of International Women’s Day today we are proud to post the first 2 of our series of successful women’s stories. Despite the hardships and the issues Radika and Rosanna have faced throughout their lives, they have made careers for themselves and successfully negotiated the crater filled road of patriarchy, homophobia and sexism to emerge on the other side as truly Women on Top!

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Find peace of mind: free counseling service for LGBTIQ persons

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Colombo PRIDE 2018 - Save the dates

Most of the dates are set for this years 14th edition of Colombo PRIDE! Please do keep checking this page from time to time for breaking news, updates on events and exciting happenings! Or, like our Facebook page – Colombo PRIDE 2018 and be informed of every event, every venue and other details!

4th June – Media Sensitising & conference

9th & 10th June 2018 – Youth Camp

12th June 2018 – FFLGBTIQ Forum (Family & Friends of LGBTIQ)

14th June 2018 – Music and Dance Festival

16th June 2018 – Rainbow Bus Parade

17th June – The ABHIMANI LGBTIQ FILM FESTIVAL

17th – 20th June – Abhimani LGBTIQ Film Festival
The ABHIMANI LGBTIQ FILM FESTIVAL is one of the oldest Queer Film Festivals in South Asia, inaugurated in 2006. It is also the only Queer Film Festival in Sri Lanka.

17th – 20th June – Rainbow Visions Art & Photo Exhibition

21st June – IDEA Junction/Addahas Mansala/Yosane Sandee

23rd June 2018 – Rainbow Pride Party

24th June The Rainbow Kite Festival

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The Convention on the Rights of the Child, recommends decriminalisation and non-discrimination

EQUAL GROUND welcomes the recommendations made to the Government of Sri Lanka by the Committee reviewing State obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), after its review at the CRC’s 77th Session last year. Based on the thematic report submitted by EQUAL GROUND at the 77th Session of the CRC in 2017, the Committee addressing the issues on discrimination recommended that the Government of Sri Lanka adopt proactive and comprehensive strategies and well-targeted actions to eliminate discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children. Furthermore, they recommended Sri Lanka combat discrimination against LGBTI children by decriminalising same-sex conduct, prohibiting harassment of transgender children by law enforcement personnel, and bringing the perpetrators of violence – including sexual abuse of LGBTI children – to justice.

The recommendations also call for the inclusion of mandatory teaching practices of non-discrimination and equality within the school curriculum and to train teachers accordingly.

Addressing issues of sexual exploitation and abuse, the committee notes their concern on the lack of legal recognition of male rape and the underreporting of sexual abuse of boys due to the criminalisation and stigmatisation of homosexuality and the shame associated with the “emasculation” that sexual abuse can cause for boys. The Committee recommends measures to be taken to criminalise statutory rape of boys by revising article 363 of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka. They further urge the Government of Sri Lanka to take the necessary actions to raise awareness regarding the matter, encourage reporting of violations by de-stigmatising and ensuring that accessible, confidential and child-friendly channels are made available for this purpose.

We would like to highlight the following CRC Committee recommendations pertaining to the LGBTI community.

Section C. General Principles
Non-Discrimination

16. The Committee urges the State party to take awareness-raising measures targeted at adults and children to overcome the prevalent perception about children as inferior to adults, and to treat children as rights-holders. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that the State party:

b) Adopt a proactive and comprehensive strategy containing specific and well-targeted actions, including affirmative social actions to eliminate discrimination against children in marginalized or vulnerable situations, including girls, children belonging to ethnic or ethno-religious or indigenous minority groups, children subjected to caste-based discrimination, children living in rural areas, refugee and internally displaced children, children in street situations, children of migrant workers abroad, children in institutional care, children with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children;

© Combat discrimination against LGBTI children, including by decriminalising consensual same-sex acts, prohibit harassment of transgender children by law enforcement personnel, and bring perpetrators of violence, including of sexual abuse of LGBTI children, to justice;

(f) Include segments on non-discrimination and equality into the mandatory school curriculum for children of all ages, adapt teaching materials and regularly train teachers accordingly.

Section E. Violence against children
Sexual exploitation and abuse

23. The Committee, despite noting the efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse of children, is gravely concerned about:

(b) The lack of legal recognition of male rape and under-reporting of sexual abuse of boys because of stigmatisation, criminalisation of homosexuality, and feeling ashamed of so-called “emasculation”.

24. The Committee urges the State party to develop an effective and comprehensive policy for preventing the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, including through child pornography, and for promoting the recovery and social reintegration of child victims, taking into consideration the root causes that place children at risk. It further urges the State party to:
(b) Take prompt measures to revise article 363 of the Penal Code to criminalize statutory rape of boys, and take large-scale awareness raising measures to encourage the reporting of rape of boys, to eliminate stigma associated with it, and to ensure accessible, confidential, child-friendly and effective reporting channels for such violations;

Please find the complete concluding observations at the OHCHR website.

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BREAK THE SILENCE ABOUT LGBT VIOLENCE

Violence comes in different shapes and forms. Within the LGBT community, people are often subjected to emotional, physical and sexual abuse by family, peers and persons in positions of power. Such situations often go unnoticed due to the lack of explicit protection for the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of any form of violence based on your sexual orientation or gender identity, share your story with us. We can support you with legal, medical and emotional advice.

CALL 0114 334277 | TEXT/WHATSAPP – 0777677333 |
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[01] Lesbians Are Often Forced into Marriage Against Their Will. Which Results In A Lifetime Of Emotional, Physical And Sexual Abuse.

[02] Lesbian couples get beaten up or verbally abused based on their gender expressions and sexuality.

[03] Police officers arbitrarily arrest gay men causing physical and emotional distress by blackmailing them.

[04] Gay men and boys face sexual abuse by family members and peers because of their sexual orientation and gender expression.

[05] Trans women are sexually abused by law enforcement due to their gender identity and expression.

[06] Trans women are harassed verbally, physically and sexually on the street for their gender identity and expressions.

[07] Transmen are often questioned about their genitalia by law enforcement, the medical sector, the work force and other institutions, and are regularly forced to expose themselves causing grave emotional distress.

[08] Trans men are sexually abused by family members to “cure” them of their gender identity and expressions.

For a better view of our 16 day Campaign to end Violence against the LGBTIQ community got to:
BREAK THE SILENCE

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