FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
COLOMBO, 04 August 2022: EQUAL GROUND condemns the Emergency Regulations passed by Sri Lanka’s parliament on 27 July that threaten human rights, as well as the spate of arbitrary arrests targeting peaceful protesters, including prominent human rights activists.
Over the past several weeks, EQUAL GROUND has been alarmed at the State’s violence against its citizens and the sweeping powers given to the security forces to arrest and detain individuals under various stipulations.
Particularly, EQUAL GROUND is concerned about the inclusion of Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code in Articles 11 and 12 of the Emergency Regulations. The police and law enforcement authorities already use 365 and 365A, which criminalise “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and “acts of gross indecency”, respectively, to arrest and harass Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTIQ) persons. The Emergency Regulations give the police and armed forces power to question, search, and detain, without warrant, anyone committing or suspected of committing offences under 365 and 365A. These two Sections are also included in Article 12(1)(e), which lists the offences that could garner a sentence of life imprisonment, if convicted.
“The targeting of LGBTIQ persons under ‘Emergency Regulations’ is just another ploy by the government to continue to marginalise, discriminate, and undermine the Constitution, while attempting to tarnish the LGBTIQ community as ‘harmful to the state’, thereby making them easy targets for the police, armed forces, and other citizens,” EQUAL GROUND’s Executive Director, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera pointed out.
The Emergency Regulations were passed by an overwhelming majority, with 120 MPs voting for it and only 63 against it.
At large, Emergency Regulations go against the Fundamental rights recognised by the Sri Lankan Constitution.
At a time when the world is closely monitoring the developments in Sri Lanka, the suppression of human rights in this manner can also severely impact the ongoing discussions for foreign aid, particularly negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Over the years, LGBTIQ rights activists have consistently called for the repeal of Sections 365 and 365A, as situations like this could further impact the rights of the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka, hampering their basic human rights and put their lives in danger. Furthermore, in a landmark decision, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) committee found that the criminalisation of consensual, same-sex relations under 365 and 365A is a human rights violation.
In this context, EQUAL GROUND reiterates its call to repeal Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code immediately and urges the President and the government to take steps to protect the rights of all its citizens.
EQUAL GROUND is a nonprofit organisation seeking economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning/Queer (LGBTIQ) community of Sri Lanka. It is committed to creating a safe space for all LGBTIQ individuals and to providing opportunities for self-help including mental well-being, economic, social and political empowerment, access to health, education, housing and legal protection for the LGBTIQ community. Founded in 2004 EQUAL GROUND is also the oldest organisation of this nature functioning in the country.
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EQUAL GROUND, Sri Lanka