About EQUAL GROUND
Equality for all sexual orientations and gender identities; human rights for everyone
Who are we?
EQUAL GROUND is the only organization in Sri Lanka currently actively fighting for equal rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) community. Founded in 2004 EQUAL GROUND is also the oldest organization of this nature functioning in the country.
EQUAL GROUND advocates for the decriminalization of homosexual activity and the elimination of discrimination of individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Credibility and Integrity
We will be honest. We won’t make promises we can’t keep, and we will keep the promises that we’ve made. We won’t violate the laws of Sri Lanka nor will we encourage anyone affiliated to us to do so.
We seek to assist other individuals and organizations that share our common vision.
Creativity and Ingenuity
We will endeavour to find creative, yet effective and efficient ways of spreading the message that equality is for everyone.
We will not withhold information about our activities or finances from our donors. If we make a mistake, we will own up to it and find a way to correct it.
Information and Competence
We will become experts in our field. We will gain an increasing body of knowledge and expertise to be used, together with our other values, to see our vision become reality.
We will respect and honour others in the way that we treat them. We will practice what we preach. We will maintain professionalism and ethical practices always.
We will not disclose personal or institutional information without the explicit consent of the owners of such information.
The EQUAL GROUND logo comprises of the organization name in upper case with an inverted pink triangle replacing the letter ‘A’.
The inverted pink triangle originated in Nazi concentration camps during World War II where men convicted of ‘sexual deviance’ which, included homosexuality were forced to wear a pink triangle. The icon was reclaimed in the post-Stonewall gay rights movement as a symbol of empowerment, and, by some, a symbol of remembrance.
The uninterrupted, horizontal, pink line running through the organization name represents a level playing field in all circumstances, for all individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Our operating environment
Sri Lankan society is structured on strict gender roles and responsibilities, where anything different to heteronormative and binary gender standards is considered abnormal, deviant and deserving of punishment/discrimination. As a result of our colonial past, same sex relationships between consenting adults is deemed a criminal act punishable with up to 10 years in prison. As a result, social stigmas are attached to homosexuality and transgenderism. This stigma is heavily institutionalised resulting in the discrimination and marginalization of members of the LGBTIQ community and those perceived as members of the LGBTIQ community.
Due to the lack of understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation and misinterpreted religious/cultural doctrine, LGBTIQ persons are often forced into heterosexual marriages, subject to curative rape, or face violence within the confines of their homes and in public.
Individuals who are thus mistreated are denied access to justice and medical attention because they fear the repercussions of their ‘different’ sexual orientation or gender identity becoming public knowledge and also because the instances of further abuse at the hands of the authorities is a probable threat.
Annual PRIDE celebrations are important to the LGBTIQ community as it is the only opportunity for the community to proudly embrace their identities as a whole, publicly. Colombo PRIDE celebrations are fairly low-key due to security concerns but have been organised by EQUAL GROUND for 15 uninterrupted years in 2019. Colombo PRIDE is also an educational and sensitizing exercise where the message of diversity is communicated to the community and wherever possible the general public.
Due to the marginalisation and abuses faced by the LGBTIQ community on a regular basis, it comes as no surprise that mental health issues are experienced by many if not all members of the community.
EQUAL GROUND operates a counselling hotline specifically for LGBTIQ persons in all 3 languages (English, Sinhala and Tamil). A ‘Women Only’ line for LB women operated by female counsellors is also operational in all 3 languages as is a ‘Transgender only’ line which is operated by Counsellors from our Transgender Project coordination team. Additionally, Counseling is now digital with Facebook messenger used for counseling.
It is the only LGBTIQ focused counseling line in the country.
Maintenance of a safe space
The EQUAL GROUND office, also serves as an LGBTIQ safe space. This space is used for extracurricular activities such as dance classes, self-defence classes, movie nights, cross dressers evenings, and theme nights for LGBTIQ persons and also houses a library of LGBTIQ books and DVDs for members to access whenever they require.
The ‘Adare Pata’ (Colours of Love) campaign disseminates information on safer sex practices, HIV and STI prevention methods, and information on where to access testing and so on and is distributed at workshops and other LGBTIQ events.
Information on Breast and cervical cancer via our publication Breast and Cervical Cancer – information for women who love women is also distributed via workshops on sexual health and reproductive rights organized by us and other organizations.
EQUAL GROUND feels that the dissemination of information via our publications is an integral part of sensitising the public and empowering the LGBTIQ community as well. We also engage in research activities and publish findings for better understanding of the status of LGBTIQ rights in Sri Lanka.
Please see our Publications on our Resources page.
Advertising campaigns, events, poster and sticker campaigns and discussion forums are conducted to commemorate the following dates: International Women’s Day, International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), Transgender Remembrance day, Lesbian Visibility Day, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (16 Days of Activism), World AIDS Day, Human Rights Day.
Other pertinent days are also commemorated.
Several workshops are held each year to sensitise and educate the public and the LGBTIQ community on issues pertaining to the LGBTIQ community. So far, EQUAL GROUND has conducted workshops in 12 Districts of Sri Lanka with the general public, local government authorities, law enforcement, health sector, human rights commission, legal aid commission, business sector, media and others, both in urban and rural settings.
These workshops cover several topics such as Gender and Patriarchy, Gender Based Violence, Human Rights, HIV/AIDS, SOGIE, Legal, social and cultural rights etc. Workshops are also tailor made to fit demographics and needs, as and when they present.
Some of the areas we have worked in are Dambulla, Colombo, Piliyandala, Kalutara, Mathugama, Matara, Galle, Kegalle, Kandy, Balangoda, Ratnapura, Nuwara Eliya, Thalawakelle, Hatton, Kotmale, Thawalanthenna, Meepirimana, Kalukelle, Baddegama, Dadella, Kantalai, Trincomalee, Uppuvelli, Attalachchenai, Batticaloa, Kattankudy, Eechalampathu, Linkepuram, Kilivatti, Sarthapuram, Kalledy, Kebithigollewa, Medawachchiya and Vallachchenai and others.
Advanced Data gathering
Several mapping exercises and studies have been conducted by EQUAL GROUND to gather information on the LGBTIQ community and the issues they face. The several reports on these advanced data gathering projects are available on our Resources page. Struggling against Homophobic Violence and hate crimes against Lesbian and Bisexual Women in the rural areas, was intended to be an advanced data gathering exercise to determine the level and types of violence faced by LB women in the rural areas of Sri Lanka. Similarly, The LGBTIQ Stigma Index was the culmination of a study on the types of stigma and discrimination faced by the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka. These are just two of the many studies we have conducted over the years.
Till these studies was conducted there had never been any data collected on LGBTIQ persons and their lives. Neither had any other study been conducted on the lives of LGBTIQ persons in this country. The studies are an attempt to start producing quantative and qualitative data and statistics on the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka which will then be used for advocacy purposes and to determine the levels and types of services needed for the community.
Engaging Corporate Sri Lanka (sensitizing Programs)
Corporate Sri Lanka has a key role to play in this country accepting and embracing the LGBTIQ community. Diversity in the workplace and issues pertaining to the LGBTIQ workforce are discussed while sensitizing the corporate community on LGBTIQ persons and the stigma and discrimination they face each day. To date, EQUAL GROUND has sensitised over 6000 staff members from different businesses. EQUAL GROUND was also able to convince John Keells Holdings, one of Sri Lanka’s biggest home-grown companies, to include Sexual Orientation and Gender identity in their Human resources policies. EQUAL GROUND is happy to assist any business that feels inclined to change their policies to accept and embrace diversity in the workplace. The business case for Diversity and Inclusion is solid and businesses worldwide are beginning to realise the importance of inclusion as tool for growth, productivity and financial gain.
Enhancing the Technical Capacity of rural Community Based Organisations, LGBTIQ Support Groups and Individual LGBT activists
EQUAL GROUND continues to train many of the groups and individuals we work with including CBOs in rural areas, LGBTIQ support groups and individuals and NGOs.
Trainings include: Gender and Patriarchy, Gender Based Violence, Sexuality, Gender Identity, Human Rights, HIV/AIDS prevention methodologies, sexual and reproductive health, counseling, project management, etc. Trainings are tailor made for each situation and organisation.
EQUAL GROUND has produced several documentaries, short length films, campaign and music videos. EQUAL GROUND continues to expand its repertoire of visual advocacy & campaigning through digital media in order to educate and sensitise on LGBTIQ issues. Please go to Youtube for a list of these productions.
The EQUAL GROUND Youth Network is aimed at networking with the general youth population of Sri Lanka especially those with a focus on Human Rights. EQUAL GROUND has, over the years, conducted many youth orientated events such as residential and mini youth camps, workshops and forums. It currently works very closely with Young Out Here – an organisation working for key affected youth. In partnership with YOH, EQUAL GROUND has assisted in facilitating Queer Talks for youth and together with YOH will resume the once a month movie night from November 2017.
The Transgender project incorporates an enhanced program which will include field visits, social gatherings, HIV and STI workshops, gender and sexuality workshops and vocational training – all aimed at enhancing the lives of transgender persons. In addition, EQUAL GROUND works closely with Venesa and The National Transgender Network which are the FTM and MTF Trans groups currently operating in Sri Lanka.
Website and Social Networks
The ongoing Decriminalisation Campaign on Facebook and other media continues. The 136 Campaign is a means to shed light on the enduring and blatant discrimination, marginalisation and violation of the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka. The number 136 depicts the number of years the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka has endured archaic British Colonial laws criminalising consenting same sex sexual relations. It is one of many visual and interactive campaigns EQUAL GROUND has launched on social media to focus on this very important issue.
Increasing Lesbian Visibility
The LB Women’s Scholarship Program and visibility project of ‘hope’ focuses on a vocational skills building for impoverished and disempowered Lesbian and Bisexual (LB) women and girls. To date as many as 12 women have been empowered by this project which is ongoing. Annual Lesbian Visibility day initiated in 2017 – entertained over 75 LB women and allies at Women on Top – a women only space that encouraged women to be themselves in a safe environment. EQUAL GROUND plans to hold LB gatherings regularly to increase visibility and empower LB women. Lesbian Visibility Day will be held annually.
For more information on our events, projects and campaigns, please email us at email@example.com or call us at +94-11-4334277 or +94-11- 4334278.
If you wish to donate to our ongoing advocacy on behalf of the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka please click on the button provided below. It is tax deductible.