Where we work
In the past 15 years EQUAL GROUND has worked to sensitise and educate in over 50 towns and villages in Sri Lanka including Akuressa, Attalachchenai, Aranayake, Baddegama, Batticaloa, Balangoda, Bentota, Beruwela, Colombo, Dambulla, Dadella, Eechalampathu, Galle, Hatton, Habarana, Hikkaduwa, Kalutara, Kamburupitiya, Kotmale, Kalukelle, Kantalai, Kattankudy, Kalledy, Kebithigollewa, Kantalai, Kelaniya, Kegalle, Kandy, Kuruwita, Kilivatti, Linkepuram, Mathugama, Matara, Meepirimana, Moratuwa, Medawachchiya, Mawanella, Mundalama, Nuwara Eliya, Oddamavady, Piliyandala, Puttalam, Peradeniya, Polonnaruwa, Rambukkana, Ratnapura, Sarthapuram, Thihagoda, Thalawakelle, Thawalanthenna, Trincomalee, Uppuvelli, Vijithapura, Vanathavillu, Vallachchenai. Walgama, Warakapola and Yala.
EQUAL GROUND is the only organisation in Sri Lanka to hold annual PRIDE celebrations - an important event in the Sri Lankan LGBTIQ calendar. PRIDE in Sri Lanka is currently on a small scale and whilst we hope to one day march the streets demanding our rights, the current political climate coupled with the oppressive laws against LGBTIQ persons, impedes a peaceful march. Therefore, PRIDE celebrations take place as private, yet very public functions attended by persons from all over Sri Lanka. PRIDE has grown from strength to strength. Each year a diverse range of events are held to encourage the Queer community to come out and be proud. It is also an educational and sensitising exercise where the message of diversity is addressed in a holistic way paving for better understanding and acceptance of the Queer community by the larger Sri Lankan citizenship. Events include workshops, dramas/shows/musicals, film festivals, art & photo exhibitions, parties, the kite festival and so on. An integral part of Colombo PRIDE is the Abhimani Queer Film Festival, which along with Colombo PRIDE, celebrated its 15th Anniversary in 2019.
Our counselling service for LGBTIQ persons was established in 2005. We now operate a helpline in 3 languages (English, Sinhala and Tamil) which consists of a women only line for LB women and a Trans only line for Transgender persons which is operated by our existing staff.
Recently, we added to our team of Counselors and Mental Health practitioners running the service remotely on Skype, Viber, Email or Instagram. It is operated by a qualified Mental Health practitioner who is currently the Director of LGBTQ & Gender Resources at Vassar College in the US. This service is available in Sinhalese and English languages.
The EQUAL GROUND office acts as the Colombo LGBTIQ safe space which is used for extracurricular activities such as workshops, movie nights, cross dressers evenings, theme nights and so on.
- International Women’s Day
- International day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT)
- Transgender Remembrance Day
- Transgender Visibility Day
- Lesbian Visibility Day
- International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (16 Days of Activism)
- World AIDS Day
- Human Rights Day
Advertising campaigns, events, poster and sticker campaigns and discussion forums are conducted to commemorate the above dates.
Engaging Corporate Sri Lanka (Sensitising Programs)
Corporate Sri Lanka has a key role to play in this country accepting and embracing the LGBTIQ community. Diversity in the workplace and issues pertaining to the LGBTIQ workforce are discussed while sensitising the corporate community on LGBTIQ persons and the stigma and discrimination they face each day. Our success with John Keells Holdings and Sapphirus Lanka can be amplified here where over 5000 staff members across the island were sensitised and the companies also changed their policies to include protection for SOGIE.
Media Sensitising Programs
In order to enlist the media in our ongoing campaign for equality, EQUAL GROUND worked closely with the Sri Lanka Press Institute to coordinate a number of sensitising workshops for the local media in 2015. Between 2017 and the present, EQUAL GROUND has held several workshops annually to sensitise media on appropriate, sensible and factual reporting on LGBTIQ persons and community and will continue to do so.
Enhancing the Technical Capacity of Rural CBO's, LGBTIQ Support Groups and Individual LGBT Activists
EQUAL GROUND continues to enhance the capacities of the many groups and individuals we work with. This includes CBOs in rural areas, LGBTIQ support groups and individuals and other smaller rural NGOs. Trainings include: Gender and Patriarchy, Gender Based Violence, Sexuality, Human Rights, HIV/AIDS prevention methodologies, sexual and reproductive health, counseling, project management, etc. In addition, EQUAL GROUND firmly believes in enhancing the capacity of regional Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s organisations and individuals as well and has conducted trainings on a variety of subjects including: Security and organisational management, utilising the Yogyakarta Principles in advocacy work, Gender and Leadership, Homophobic Violence and Hate Crimes and Research Methodologies.
EQUAL GROUND has produced several advocacy documentaries including “PRIDE 2006”, “Heaven’s Trauma” (Tsunami - 2006) and “Repeal Section 365A” (2011). In addition, Full length documentaries included “I Have a dream” (2008), “Rainbow Runway” (2010), “The Auntie Netta show” (2011), Rainbow Runway (2013), and Invisible Stain (2015). In addition, EQUAL GROUND’s production of a music video for Colombo PRIDE in 2015 entitled “Nothing but Pride” has been an enormous success with Sri Lankan and international audiences. EQUAL GROUND will expand its repertoire of advocacy documentary and focus on bringing sensitising through visual advocacy.
The EQUAL GROUND Youth Network is aimed at networking with the general youth population of Sri Lanka especially those with a focus on Human Rights and taking the issues of LGBTIQ youths into the mainstream.
The Transgender project in 2012 incorporated an enhanced program which will include field visits, social gatherings, HIV and STI workshops, gender and sexuality workshops, Transgender fellowships, focused discussions on SRS and health and the Transgender Network - all aimed at enhancing the lives of transgender people. A counseling line has also been established to counsel only transgender persons.
LB Women’s Scholarships
Since 2013, EQUAL GROUND has been providing scholarships to under-privileged Lesbian and Bisexual women. 25 women have benefitted from the program from Anuradhapura, Puttalam, Nuwara Eliya, Galle and Colombo in various fields such as sewing, incense stick making, beauty culture, photography and cookery.
The Family & Friends of LGBTIQ was created to build an environment for family and friends of the LGBTIQ community to discuss relevant issues and to support each other, while also building a network of strong allies that will contribute towards furthering the LGBTIQ rights movement through activism, encouraging litigation to increase protection under the constitution and repeal discriminatory laws that systematically marginalize LGBTIQ individuals. Several Forums have been initiated, particularly at PRIDE events and a strong base has been established.
Our advocacy work is both global and national. At the UN level, we have consistently submitted shadow reports to the UPR, CEDAW, ICCPR, CRC, ICESCR since 2008.
EQUAL GROUND and Sri Lanka was represented on the Executive Board of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA) from 2004 till 2014 as Regional Representative and the Co-Secretary General positions.
EQUAL GROUND is a founding member of The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) and our Executive Director was the first Chair of this organisation (2015-2020). The Commonwealth Equality Network is a network of Commonwealth civil society organisations working to challenge inequality in the Commonwealth, based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Network was set up with the aim of giving a voice to LGBTI communities across the Commonwealth and to support joint advocacy in identifying a Commonwealth solution to a Commonwealth problem. TCEN is the only accredited LGBT network/organisation within the Commonwealth.
EQUAL GROUND formed a vital part of the RFSU/SIDA South Asia LGBT Network, a collaboration network of activists and organisations from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka to improve Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights and health (including HIV) in South Asia (2007-2012).
EQUAL GROUND was on the board of the South Asia Hub for I4C. Innovation for Change (I4C) is a global network of people and organisations who work together to protect civic space and overcome restrictions to our basic freedoms of assembly, association and speech.
EQUAL GROUND hosted the Country Coordinator for SAHARA Sri Lanka. SAHRA (South Asian Human Rights Association of people marginalized because of their sexualities & gender identity/expression) is an initiative with a mandate to systematically document human rights violations against sexual and gender minorities in the South Asian region, to respond to these violations and to strongly advocate for an increase in the recognition, protection and promotion of human rights.
EQUAL GROUND was an integral member of the Global Equality Network under the auspices of Heartland Alliance, Chicago.
Engagement with Local Mechanisms
EQUAL GROUND played its role as advocates for LGBTIQ rights by contribution to the Constitutional Reform process in 2016 and had a significant presence at PRC presentations in 9 districts. The organisation met with the Parliamentary sub Committee on Fundamental rights (2017) and made its presentation on the need to include nondiscrimination policies and decriminalisation while lobbying for inclusion in the fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Presentations and submissions were also made to the Special Task Force for Reconciliation Mechanisms and recommendations were made to the National Human Rights Action Plan.
Our engagement with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) as a sub committee member has been extensive. Documentation of cases were presented to the HRCSL, input was given into the Gender Certification process for Transgenders and EQUAL GROUND sensitised HRC officers island wide on SOGIE. We worked closely with the Legal Aid Commission of Sri Lanka conducting sensitisation programs with staff members, conducted Lawyers trainings and a Lawyers conference and initiated Lawyers Collectives to better assist LGBTIQ persons in the rural areas.
EQUAL GROUND established an Advisory panel of prominent lawyers, NGO heads, etc. and has worked comprehensively with the Peradeniya Psychology department, the Kelaniya Media studies department and the Colombo University Sociology dept., conducting sensitising workshops, youth camps, documentation training, Police Training, Nurses training and worked for over 3 years with the Kandy STD clinic. We have worked with prominent psychologists, endocrinologists and plastic surgeons on behalf of trans persons.