EQUAL GROUND PRESS RELEASE - POSITIVE OUTCOME AT THE UN!
Colombo, 15th October 2014: There is finally good news from the UN for the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka. In an unprecedented statement the Government of Sri Lanka informed the Experts Committee reviewing Sri Lanka for ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) that “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) is protected under Article 12 of the Sri Lankan Constitution.”
Earlier, the The Experts Committee requested the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) to respond to several questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Para five of the list of issues (LOI) submitted by the expert committee asked:
“Please indicate the measures taken to protect persons from stigmatization and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and indicate whether they are protected by the constitutional provisions on non-discrimination”.
While not responding to the question on protection the GOSL stated: *“Article 12 of the Constitution recognizes non-discrimination based on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, place of birth or any one of such grounds as a Fundamental Right. This measure protects persons from stigmatization and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identities.” *
The full report can be viewed on the OHCHR website – CCPR/C/LKA/5, para. 339.
Following up on this statement, during the review held on the 7th and 8th of October 2014 at the OHCHR in Geneva, the Government was asked to explain the following:
(a) What has the government of Sri Lanka done to amend article 12 of Sri Lankan Constitution to include SOGI?
(b) Why has the Government not decriminalised Homosexuality?
© What is the Government intending to do to protect LGBTI persons in Sri Lanka?
In reply, Ms. Bimba Jayasinghe Thilakeratne, Additional Solicitor General with the Attorney General’s Department in Sri Lanka made the following observations:
“Article 12.1 ensures equality for sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“Article 12.2 Laws discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are unconstitutional.”
“Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal code do not target any particular group but is there to protect public morality.”
While Sri Lanka did not directly answer the questions posed, the answers given by the Additional Solicitor General can be viewed as a positive response.
In this regard, the Executive Director of EQUAL GROUND had this to say: “We are extremely pleased with this outcome and applaud the government for clarifying the interpretations of the Constitution and the law regarding SOGI in Sri Lanka. While this may not rain sunshine for the LGBTIQ community just yet, there is now at least, a sense of hope things will start changing in Sri Lanka and that the LGBTIQ community will be able to hold their heads a bit higher as the days go by. We also urge the Government to open dialog with the LGBTIQ community, particularly those advocating for better treatment and equality for LGBTIQ individuals in this country and put in place, nondiscriminatory laws and statutes that will protect our community.”
EQUAL GROUND submitted 2 shadow reports for this review collaborating with the Center for International Human Rights of Northwestern Law School (CIHR-NLS), the Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights (GISHR-HA) for the first and Kaleidoscope Australia for the second.