Sri Lanka commits to human rights protections for LGBTIQ people before the UN
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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 EQUAL GROUND, 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.”
FOR PUBLISHING PURPOSES
Notes to Editors
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2. EQUAL GROUND
EQUAL GROUND 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.
They are all of us.