Breaking the barriers and rising above the cacophony of patriarchy and heteronormativity should be every woman’s mantra, whether young or old. While we celebrate the women of today that are shattering the glass ceilings, we need to give a thought to all those women who are bound and gagged by societal and cultural ‘norms’ indoctrinated by patriarchy and heteronormativity, clipped of their wings and their desire to fly. These women are a silent, forgotten and shunned minority – the lesbians, bisexual and transgender women in this country.
Women in Sri Lanka, despite the unfair societal value assigned to them, contribute greatly, not only to uplift the economy of the country but also to build a vibrant and just society. They are our mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and wives. They are doctors, engineers, pilots and so much more. Being women and queer; lesbian, bisexual and trans women are further devalued, marginalized and stigmatized on a daily basis and we, as a society, unfortunately, remains nonchalant and uncaring of their fates.
On this International Women’s Day, we should remind ourselves that a society without women is a society incomplete. We must all stand up for the women in our lives, whether lesbian, heterosexual, Transgender or gender queer. We must celebrate their journeys, their achievements, their stories. As women of all sexual orientations we must make ourselves heard, we must make ourselves count.
In celebration of International Women’s Day today we are proud to post the first 2 of our series of successful women’s stories. Despite the hardships and the issues Radika and Rosanna have faced throughout their lives, they have made careers for themselves and successfully negotiated the crater filled road of patriarchy, homophobia and sexism to emerge on the other side as truly Women on Top!
Most of the dates are set for this years 14th edition of Colombo PRIDE! Please do keep checking this page from time to time for breaking news, updates on events and exciting happenings! Or, like our Facebook page – Colombo PRIDE 2018 and be informed of every event, every venue and other details!
4th June – Media Sensitising & conference
9th & 10th June 2018 – Youth Camp
12th June 2018 – FFLGBTIQ Forum (Family & Friends of LGBTIQ)
17th – 20th June – Abhimani LGBTIQ Film Festival
The ABHIMANILGBTIQFILMFESTIVAL is one of the oldest Queer Film Festivals in South Asia, inaugurated in 2006. It is also the only Queer Film Festival in Sri Lanka.
17th – 20th June – Rainbow Visions Art & Photo Exhibition
21st June – IDEA Junction/Addahas Mansala/Yosane Sandee
EQUALGROUND welcomes the recommendations made to the Government of Sri Lanka by the Committee reviewing State obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), after its review at the CRC’s 77th Session last year. Based on the thematic report submitted by EQUALGROUND at the 77th Session of the CRC in 2017, the Committee addressing the issues on discrimination recommended that the Government of Sri Lanka adopt proactive and comprehensive strategies and well-targeted actions to eliminate discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children. Furthermore, they recommended Sri Lanka combat discrimination against LGBTI children by decriminalising same-sex conduct, prohibiting harassment of transgender children by law enforcement personnel, and bringing the perpetrators of violence – including sexual abuse of LGBTI children – to justice.
The recommendations also call for the inclusion of mandatory teaching practices of non-discrimination and equality within the school curriculum and to train teachers accordingly.
Addressing issues of sexual exploitation and abuse, the committee notes their concern on the lack of legal recognition of male rape and the underreporting of sexual abuse of boys due to the criminalisation and stigmatisation of homosexuality and the shame associated with the “emasculation” that sexual abuse can cause for boys. The Committee recommends measures to be taken to criminalise statutory rape of boys by revising article 363 of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka. They further urge the Government of Sri Lanka to take the necessary actions to raise awareness regarding the matter, encourage reporting of violations by de-stigmatising and ensuring that accessible, confidential and child-friendly channels are made available for this purpose.
We would like to highlight the following CRC Committee recommendations pertaining to the LGBTI community.
Section C. General Principles
16. The Committee urges the State party to take awareness-raising measures targeted at adults and children to overcome the prevalent perception about children as inferior to adults, and to treat children as rights-holders. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that the State party:
b) Adopt a proactive and comprehensive strategy containing specific and well-targeted actions, including affirmative social actions to eliminate discrimination against children in marginalized or vulnerable situations, including girls, children belonging to ethnic or ethno-religious or indigenous minority groups, children subjected to caste-based discrimination, children living in rural areas, refugee and internally displaced children, children in street situations, children of migrant workers abroad, children in institutional care, children with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children;
(f) Include segments on non-discrimination and equality into the mandatory school curriculum for children of all ages, adapt teaching materials and regularly train teachers accordingly.
Section E. Violence against children
Sexual exploitation and abuse
23. The Committee, despite noting the efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse of children, is gravely concerned about:
(b) The lack of legal recognition of male rape and under-reporting of sexual abuse of boys because of stigmatisation, criminalisation of homosexuality, and feeling ashamed of so-called “emasculation”.
24. The Committee urges the State party to develop an effective and comprehensive policy for preventing the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, including through child pornography, and for promoting the recovery and social reintegration of child victims, taking into consideration the root causes that place children at risk. It further urges the State party to:
(b) Take prompt measures to revise article 363 of the Penal Code to criminalize statutory rape of boys, and take large-scale awareness raising measures to encourage the reporting of rape of boys, to eliminate stigma associated with it, and to ensure accessible, confidential, child-friendly and effective reporting channels for such violations;
Please find the complete concluding observations at the OHCHR website.
Violence comes in different shapes and forms. Within the LGBT community, people are often subjected to emotional, physical and sexual abuse by family, peers and persons in positions of power. Such situations often go unnoticed due to the lack of explicit protection for the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of any form of violence based on your sexual orientation or gender identity, share your story with us. We can support you with legal, medical and emotional advice.
 Lesbians Are Often Forced into Marriage Against Their Will. Which Results In A Lifetime Of Emotional, Physical And Sexual Abuse.
 Lesbian couples get beaten up or verbally abused based on their gender expressions and sexuality.
 Police officers arbitrarily arrest gay men causing physical and emotional distress by blackmailing them.
 Gay men and boys face sexual abuse by family members and peers because of their sexual orientation and gender expression.
 Trans women are sexually abused by law enforcement due to their gender identity and expression.
 Trans women are harassed verbally, physically and sexually on the street for their gender identity and expressions.
 Transmen are often questioned about their genitalia by law enforcement, the medical sector, the work force and other institutions, and are regularly forced to expose themselves causing grave emotional distress.
 Trans men are sexually abused by family members to “cure” them of their gender identity and expressions.
For a better view of our 16 day Campaign to end Violence against the LGBTIQ community got to: BREAKTHESILENCE
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 EQUALGROUND, 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.”
Notes to Editors
For more information about the story or to request an interview with Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, please contact Sriyal Nilanka at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
EQUALGROUND 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.