On Wednesday 15 November 2017 the UN reviewed Sri Lanka’s record on human rights as part of the country’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) under the Human Rights Council.
The Sri Lankan government received seven specific recommendations to amend sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code, which targets LGBTIQ people in consensual, adult relationships. The following UN Member States made explicit recommendations with respect to decriminalisation: Honduras, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, Uruguay, Australia and Brazil.
A further 6 states recommended that Sri Lanka adopt measures to combat the discrimination faced by the LGBTIQ community. The following UN Member States made explicit recommendations with respect to combating discrimination against the LGBTIQ community: Honduras, Italy, Portugal, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil.
In response to issues raised with respect to the LGBTIQ community, Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle underlined the government’s commitment to reforming Sri Lanka’s penal code to ensure that it meets international human rights standards.
Mr. Pulle added that the right to non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is ‘implicit’ in the Sri Lankan constitution and, with the reform, will soon be made an ‘explicit’ guarantee in law.
He then quoted from a recent ruling of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, which attested: “The contemporary thinking [is that] consensual sex between adults should not be policed by the state nor should it be grounds for criminalisation”. SC Appeal No.32/11 case was prosecuted under section 365A of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka. In the concluding paragraphs the Supreme Court made the notable remarks which can be accessed in its entirety at http://www.supremecourt.lk/images/documents/sc_appeal_32_11.pdf.
Mr. Pulle told the UPR: “Despite social, political and cultural challenges that remain with respect to reforming law, Sri Lanka remains committed to law reform and guaranteeing non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
In response to the Sri Lankan Government’s UPR commitments, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Executive Director of EQUALGROUND, said:
“We commend our government’s commitment to reforming the Penal Code and amending the Constitution to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds of non-discrimination.”
No one deserves to be targeted by the law because of who they are or whom they love. Our government has shown significant resolve in pledging to address the criminalisation faced by the Sri Lankan LGBTIQ community and guarantee them basic rights that have for so long been denied. Whether LGBTIQ or not, we are all entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights. We look forward to the government fulfilling on this commitment.
We welcome the Government of Sri Lanka’s willing and continued engagement with the Human Rights Council and the UPR process, and commend in particular our government’s commitment to the full realisation of human rights for all citizens in the country. We are pleased that in this regard our Government specifically addressed the questions and concerns raised by the UN Member States about the continued criminalisation of consensual same sex sexual conduct and the discrimination and violence faced by the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka.
We are very grateful for the efforts of the international community who continue to raise their concerns over the treatment of the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka and greatly appreciate the recommendations that have been made today.”
Notes to Editors
For more information about the story or to request an interview with Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, please contact Sriyal Nilanka at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
EQUALGROUND uses the law and other mechanisms to protect the basic rights of LGBTIQ people to live with dignity, free from discrimination and abuse.
People must not be persecuted as a result of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We believe in the equal protection of the rule of law and in the superior legal framework of the Sri Lankan Constitution.
We use that legal framework to effect long-term change that will improve the lives and life chances of ordinary LGBTIQ people currently living under the oppression of discriminatory laws.
We use political advocacy and public engagement to expand understanding of the oppression the Sri Lankan LGBTIQ community faces, and work towards ending it.
3. About the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
The Universal Periodic Review is a significant innovation of the UN as it involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States every 5 years.
On Wednesday, 15 November 2017 the United Nations Human Rights Council reviewed the human rights situation of Sri Lanka. This was Sri Lanka’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR); its last review took place in 2012.
In 2012, Canada and Argentina, respectively, had recommended that Sri Lanka decriminalise and strengthen measures to eliminate all discriminatory treatment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the Sri Lankan delegation was questioned about any progress in this area as part of Wednesday’s review.
4. LGBTIQ people
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) people are those whose sexual orientation or gender identity does not match convention.
They are doctors, politicians, street sweepers and everything in between.
They are our neighbours. They are our daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents. They are ordinary Sri Lankans who are a part of every subsection of society.
Months of advocacy and lobbying came to fruition as the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka concluded in Geneva today. While in 2012 Argentina and Canada recommended decriminalisation of same sex relationships and non-discriminatory policies to be placed to protect the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka, this year saw an unprecedented 9 countries recommending decriminalisation and non-discriminatory policies to safeguard LGBTIQ rights in our country. We would like to thank Honduras, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Uruguay, Argentina, Australia & Brazil for making recommendations on decriminalisation of same-sex conduct and protection against discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation and gender identity during the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka today. Our gratitude also extends to Brazil, Germany, the United States of America and Norway for raising advanced questions to the GOSL on behalf of the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka.
We would also like to commend the commitment extended by the Government of Sri Lanka during its review today to reform discriminatory laws, include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution and add non-discriminatory policies to abolish discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. (Downoad the audio file of the statement made by the GOSL on the issue of LGBTIQ at the 28th session of the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka – AUD-20171115-WA0000.m4a)
EQUALGROUND’s Executive Director Rosanna Flamer-Caldera said, “We are confident the Government of Sri Lanka will stand by its statements and not only accept these recommendations but also implement them as soon as possible. This was indeed a historic day in the struggle for equal rights for the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka as this was the first time in the history of the UPR and other treaty body reviews, that the GOSL has made such a positive and committed statement on behalf of the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka.”
EQUALGROUND would like to thank The Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and The Global Initiatives for Human Rights (GIHR), ILGA, COC Netherlands, and Human Dignity Trust, for their continued support during this UPR process in assisting EQUALGROUND in advocating for the rights of the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka.
EQUALGROUND is the only organisation in Sri Lanka to hold annual PRIDE celebrations – an important event in the Sri Lankan LGBTIQ calendar. EQUALGROUND works very hard to provide for the needs of the community each year giving the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka the space to stand up tall and be proud of who and what they are. PRIDE in Sri Lanka is currently on a small scale and whilst we hope to one day march the streets demanding our rights, the current political climate coupled with the oppressive laws against LGBTIQ persons, impedes a peaceful march. Therefore, PRIDE celebrations take place as private, yet very public functions attended by persons from all over Sri Lanka. PRIDE has grown from strength to strength. Each year a diverse range of events are held to encourage the Queer community to come out and be proud. It is also an educational and sensitizing exercise where the message of diversity is addressed in a holistic way paving for better understanding and acceptance of the Queer community by the larger Sri Lankan citizenship. Events include workshops, dramas/shows/musicals, film festivals, art & photo exhibitions, parties, the kite festival and so on.
An interesting array of events are scheduled for this year’s biggest PRIDE celebration in Sri Lanka. For more details on each and every event, please check out our Colombo PRIDE Facebook page. Colombo PRIDE is one of the oldest PRIDE Festivals in South Asia launching in 2005 with a modest Pride Party. In 2006, for the first time, a week long schedule of events was planned to great success. Since then Colombo PRIDE has grown in strength, not only in numbers attending but also the number of varied events that have been presented over the years.
An integral part of Colombo PRIDE has always been the LGBTIQ Film Festival. Formally known as “Celluloid Rainbows”, Abhimani is the only International LGBTIQ film festival in Sri Lanka and the oldest LGBTIQ Film Festival in South Asia. It is held each year in conjunction with Colombo PRIDE and presents a collection of Queer short and feature length films from countries around the globe.
We thank our loyal sponsors and partners without who’s assistance this would not be possible!
134 years of criminalisation!
134 years of marginalisation!
134 years of discrimination and the blatant violations of our rights! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
So many ways you can join the campaign!
1. Sign the PETITION
2. VIDEOS – …because a video speaks volumes
3. POP-UP EVENTS – A great excuse to meet people, discuss great ideas and change the world
4. PROMOTIONALPARAPHERNALIA – care about it? wear it.
5. TALKABOUT IT – if you know someone who knows someone who can do something, we want to know that someone
EQUALGROUND is happy to assist with video-making, pop up events, paraphernalia and so on. We have Stickers and Badges that can be distributed at Pop ups and discussions.
Our Facebook page can help in creating a platform for discussion -join now. It will also feature videos from folks who are supporting the 134 Campaign and events information (Pop ups, forums etc).
Be a part of the 134 Campaign!
Individuals belonging to or perceived as belonging to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) community in Sri Lanka have been discriminated, marginalized, harassed and persecuted, for over 134 years, by friends, family, law enforcement authorities and Government agencies and society as a whole.
A major factor contributing to the alienation of the LGBTIQ community stems from the criminalisation of LGBTIQ persons under sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka. These laws must be struck down now but the Government of Sri Lanka is not convinced there is enough people in this country that worry about this law or want this law stuck off the books. One way in which we are trying to do this is by getting people to sign the online petition we are launching today, called the 134 Campaign for the number of years the LGBTIQ community has been subject to all kinds of violence and discrimination.
The following is what we emphasise in the campaign on change.org.
134 years of criminalisation!
134 years of marginalisation!
134 years of discrimination and the blatant violation of our rights! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
How can we allow a law to continue criminalising people for loving and caring for each other? How is sex between consenting adults a crime? Sections 365 and 365A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code provide for the criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning (LGBTIQ) and even heterosexual persons for engaging in “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and “acts of gross indecency”.
The discrimination and marginalisation of the LGBTIQ community began with the imposition of this law by the British Empire in 1833; 134 years ago. According to historical records, homosexuality was not deemed criminal conduct in Sri Lanka prior to this piece of legislation.
Sri Lanka is signatory to 27 UN treaties and conventions which are based on the inherent dignity and equal right of all human beings. The country has an obligation to adhere to the international human rights standards. Many countries have moved away from marginalizing the LGBTIQ community and moved towards accepting and including the LGBTIQ community and other minorities as equal citizens. The Sri Lankan government however, operates on the premise that Sri Lankan society is homogenous, heterosexual and heteronormative. As a result it believes that there is no need to change this law because of the silence the LGBTIQ community is forced to maintain.
Will you watch in silence while your fellow citizens are being arbitrarily arrested for looking different, for loving different, for being different? The law actually legitimises this blatant misuse of power vested in the law enforcement authorities and this issue needs to be dragged up from under the carpet where it has been shoved!
The Sri Lankan LGBTIQ community is not asking for more rights than you; the community is asking for the same rights that you enjoy. The right to walk unmolested on the roads; the right to seek redress for violations; the right to proudly embrace who they are; the right to love.
The law as it is, traps LGBTIQ persons in the closet. Closets are dark spaces. Bad things happen in dark places. Help let the light in.