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,
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’
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 email@example.com. It would be a pleasure to be able to have a discussion with you on this matter.