The Butterflies for Democracy will stand in solidarity along with allies, family and friends of the LGBTIQA community to protest the blatant disregard for democracy currently prevailing in the country. We will come together on 7th December 2018 at Lipton Circle from 4pm till 6pm to demand that sanity, democracy and decency prevail and that the rights of the LGBTIQA community be recognized.
For over 135 years, the LGBTIQA community has been marginalised and discriminated against due to archaic British Laws that were introduced in 1883, which our Governments have clung on to for over 70 years of independence in order to vilify and marginalise our community. Meanwhile, the UK and 35 other Commonwealth Countries have moved to remove these laws. As recently as weeks ago, our neighbour India decriminalised consensual same sex relationships, freeing over 200 million LGBTIQA persons from under the yoke of British Colonial laws. We ask, why not Sri Lanka?
Politicising and denigrating the LGBTIQA community has been the mantra of conservative politicians in order to garner votes and scare people into thinking that being LGBTIQA is some sort of sickness or perversion – neither of which is true and neither of which can be proved scientifically or medically.
We are gathering at Lipton Circle to remind the President and politicians of this country that we represent a large voter base in this country. We also remind the very same persons that the Constitution of this country protects our rights as equal citizens and that we must be treated as such. We demand that democracy prevails and insist that democracy is nothing without equality, respect and dignity for all citizens of this country. We stand in solidarity with the many groups who have been speaking out for the same in this moment in time, and warmly invite them to join us.
#butterfliesfordemocracy #LGBTIQ #LKA #democracy
The ‘First Citizen’ of our country who was elected by our vote and subsequently betrayed the public mandate, has resorted to using the term ‘Butterfly’, a derogatory term alluding to minority sexual orientations. He has done so to hurt, shame and insult his political opponents and the LGBTIQ+ community as a whole, in order to protect his waning popularity and to justify his anti-democratic acts. We stand here today in protest to the aforesaid act and in support of the continued protest by civil society to the ongoing attack on our democracy.
We weren’t hurt by the President’s Butterfly Speech. It made us stronger. A butterfly is a symbol of social change, hope, life, and diversity. But we are hurt that the politicians in the ‘current government’ led by him have betrayed the values of democracy. We are hurt because these politicians, who were elected through the public vote, have become marketable goods auctioned for offers worth millions.
Many of us supported Mr. Sirisena in 2015 to defeat the previous government which blatantly violated human rights, attacked and murdered journalists and social activists, and breached law and democracy. We condemn his repulsive act of reuniting with anti-democratic politicos of the previous government and conspiring to grab power for them, in the process, betraying the trust we placed upon him.
This is a reminder to him that he cannot use homophobia as armor to protect himself, and that he and every other public representative and political party should act to pave way for the Sri Lankan LGBTIQ+ community to live with dignity, respect, and equality of law and justice.
Furthermore, with utmost disgust, we vehemently condemn the blatantly one-sided media reportage and political interference in the media, which is apparent in the present context. Media Freedom is the foundation of democracy.
Homophobia is a concept introduced by the British, an imperialistic endowment born in the Victorian age of Morality. It has been 70 years since we gained independence. The contract adhered to by the British administrators of governance back then is continued by our own politicians. It will be a huge mistake on their part to believe that they could cling to power anti-democratically by sacrificing not just us, but the rights of all minorities, by spreading racism, religious disharmony and instigating ethnic conflicts.
We, as the ‘Butterfly’ community, vehemently condemn this ongoing conspiracy which is anti-democratic and power-hungry. We believe that human rights are protected in a democratic society. We ‘the butterflies’ will keep on fighting to protect it. The world can be changed, not by violence, but by the sound of a thousand butterfly wings rising for peace, justice and respect. Therefore, we shall be the Butterflies for Democracy. Every single insult and attack against us is an encouragement for us to continue our struggle.
Can policy reform bring about social change in this country and how do we provide a life free of discrimination for all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, and Questioning Community (LGBTIQ) persons in Sri Lanka?
The Executive Director of EQUALGROUND Rosanna Flamer-Caldera sat with DIG Ajith Rohana of the Sri Lanka Police, Professor Camena Guneratne from the Open University, Ms Ambika Satkunanathan of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, and Dr. Paikiasothy Sarvanamuththu of the Center for Policy Alternatives to discuss how to combat discrimination of LGBTIQ persons, as we commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT represents an annual landmark to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, the public, opinion leaders and local authorities to the alarming situation faced by LGBTIQ people and all those who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms) on the 17th of May 2018.
The discussion revolved around the commitments made by the Government of Sri Lanka during its Universal Periodic Review (The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 United Nations (UN) Member States. Under this mechanism, the human rights situation of all UN Member States is reviewed every 5 years) in November of 2017 (The Government of Sri Lanka supported four recommendations on protecting LGBTIQ persons from discrimination and stated that they will be committing to reform the law of the country to reflect these recommendations).
During the panellist’s presentations, DIG Ajith Rohana acknowledged that there are isolated incidents of discrimination of LGBT persons, but they are working towards eliminating them by introducing sensitising programs in the police training curriculum. He strongly emphasised that no one should be discriminated because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
A highlighted point that was repeatedly discussed was the importance of social change following policy change and how the narrative should be shaped when challenging the laws that criminalise same-sex conduct. Humanising LGBTIQ issues by using real-life examples and cases of queer people can make it more relatable to those who do not understand the struggles of the LGBTIQ persons and eventually change people’s negative perceptions about the community.
Dr Sarvanamutthu strongly believes that there is power in numbers and representation. He suggests that it is time that families rally behind the movement; He urged parents and grandparents to strongly question the law and file for a class action lawsuit demanding for the decriminalisation of their children and grandchildren.
From a policy change stand point Professor Camena stated that even though the constitutional reform process is in the back burner there could be a possibility of explicit protection offered to the LGBTIQ community through expansion of the fundamental rights chapter. This reform, coupled with an introduction of post-enactment of judicial review of all legislation that is inconsistent with the constitution can nullify the criminalisation of same-sex conduct as stated in Penal Codes 365 and 365A of Sri Lanka.
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has taken a strong public position in including explicit protection for the LGBTIQ community (The HRCSL appointed an LGBTIQ subcommittee, spearheaded the gender recognition certificate for transgender persons and is working with the press council of Sri Lanka to introduce a set of ethical media reporting guidelines). In Ms Satkunanathan’s presentation, she discussed the importance of not only sensitising the general public and civil society organisations but also the staff at the HRCSL (Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka) to be empathetic and non-judgemental.
The LGBTIQ community can also use other forms of legislature such as arbitrary violence and torture to safeguard themselves from unauthorised searches and questioning. Ms Ambika also urged that community members make use of the HRCSL’s complaint mechanism to report violations. We understand that policy change does need to be followed by social change and the continuous fight for equal rights has to involve the youth and multiple stakeholders such as our family members to strengthen our position.
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,
544/A, Nawala Road,
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’
EQUALGROUND 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 EQUALGROUND 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, EQUALGROUND 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. EQUALGROUND 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 – EQUALGROUND has always presented itself in a professional manner, teaching and educating and engaging in thought provoking discussion.
You had mentioned the name of EQUALGROUND 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 EQUALGROUND 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 EQUALGROUND. 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 email@example.com. It would be a pleasure to be able to have a discussion with you on this matter.