Where we work
Since its inception in 2004, EQUAL GROUND has worked to sensitise and educate members of the LGBTIQ community, Family and Friends of the LGBTIQ community, Sri Lanka Police, Allies, politicians and local government authorities, and many others in over 60 towns and villages in all 9 Provinces of Sri Lanka including Akuressa, Anuradhapura, Ampara, Attalachchenai, Aranayake, Baddegama, Batticaloa, Balangoda, Bentota, Beruwela, Colombo, Dambulla, Dadella, Eechalampathu, Galle, Hatton, Habarana, Hikkaduwa, Jaffna, Kalutara, Kamburupitiya, Kotmale, Kalukele, Kantalai, Kattankudy, Kalledy, Kebithigollewa, Kelaniya, Kegalle, Kandy, Kuruwita, Kilivatti, Linkepuram, Mahiyangana, Matale, Mathugama, Matara, Meepirimana, Monaragale, Moratuwa, Medawachchiya, Mawanella, Mundalama, Negombo, Nuwara Eliya, Oddamavady, Panadura, Piliyandala, Puttalam, Peradeniya, Polonnaruwa, Rambukkana, Ratnapura, Sarthapuram, Tangalle, Thihagoda, Thalawakelle, Thawalanthenna, Trincomalee, Uppuvelli, Vijithapura, Vanathavillu, Vallachchenai, Walgama, Warakapola and Yala.
EQUAL GROUND has held annual PRIDE celebrations - an important event in the Sri Lankan LGBTIQ calendar - since 2005. Over the years PRIDE has grown from strength to strength. PRIDE Month in June offers a diverse range of events which are held to encourage the Queer community and its allies 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. Colombo PRIDE’s signature events include: the Abhimani Queer Film Festival (the first and oldest Queer Film Festival in South Asia), The Rainbow Kite Festival, The Rainbow PRIDE Party, The Rainbow Art & Photo Exhibition, and the PRIDE Music & Dance Festival. PRIDE events over the years have also included workshops, dramas/shows/musicals, and in 2023, the first Colombo PRIDE Walk and Food Festival.
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 Trans persons, which is operated by our counseling staff.
We provide counseling online through our Counseling page on Facebook and also on all our dedicated accounts on Facebook and Instagram a well.
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
- International Lesbian Visibility Day
- Sri Lankan Lesbian Visibility Day
- International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
- 16 Days of Activism
- World AIDS Day
- Human Rights Day
The above are some of the otherwise long list of commemorative days observed by EQUAL GROUND with advertising campaigns, events, posters and sticker campaigns and discussion forums conducted to commemorate these dates.
Engaging Corporate Sri Lanka (Sensitising Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the workplace)
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. Programs include an introduction to the acronym LGBTIQ, proper use of Pronouns, the laws affecting LGBTIQ persons in Sri Lanka and their implications.
Our success with John Keells Holdings and Sapphirus Lanka can be amplified here while over 50,000 staff members across the island from many companies have been sensitised to date and has resulted in many of these companies also changing their policies to include protections for, and more friendlier, understanding and inclusive workplaces for LGBTIQ persons. In all, as of November 2023, EQUAL GROUND has sensitised over 50 companies with the list growing each year.
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. There has been a marked improvement over the years and many positive changes from the News outlets in Sri Lanka with fairer and respectful reporting as opposed to the homophobic and sensational news reporting of yesteryear. Many changes have taken place within the media with more accurate, non-homophobic reporting taking place by the majority of Media houses – both digital and print - in Sri Lanka.
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.
Documentaries, Films and DVDs
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 including “I Have a dream” (2008), “Rainbow Runway” (2010), “The Auntie Netta show” (2011), “Rainbow Runway” (2013), and “Invisible Stain” (2015) have also added to our Celluloid repertoire . 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.
In 2021 as part of our “Live with Love” campaign, EQUAL GROUND produced a theme song video titled “Adaren Immu” to launch the campaign. 5 short films depicting LGBTIQ persons and their lives, loves and issues were produced for this campaign entitled “Let’s Support their Journey” (Sinhala), “See Me” (English), “The Match” (Sinhala), “The Struggle” (Sinhala) and “Who will save us” (Tamil). EQUAL GROUND will expand its repertoire of videos 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
EQUAL GROUND provided scholarships to under-privileged Lesbian and Bisexual women from 2013 till 2016. 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.
Website and Social Networks
EQUAL GROUND is accessible and visible through its website, the EQUAL GROUND blog and also through its profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Additionally, EQUAL GROUND operates its signature advocacy campaign Live with Love on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tribel.
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 2001 till 2010 as Regional Representatives 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 (2015-2021). 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 LGBTIQ 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 SAHRA Sri Lanka (2015-2019). SAHRA (South Asian Human Rights Association of people marginalized because of their sexualities & gender identity/expression) was 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 (2008-2010).
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 (Public Recommendation Committee) 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.
Litigation by EQUAL GROUND
In 2018 EQUAL GROUND’s Executive Director Rosanna Flamer-Caldera was instrumental in filing the first case of its kind with the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) at the United Nations, challenging discriminatory laws in Sri Lanka that criminalises same-sex sexual relationships between consenting women. In their decision, the Committee found that the said Sri Lankan penal laws, i.e. Sections 365 and 365A, violated several human rights protected under the CEDAW. The landmark decision was adopted on 21 February 2022 and was the first time the Committee considered an individual complaint relating specifically to the criminalisation of lesbian and bisexual women. It is a landmark case which resonates globally and will serve to assist all Lesbians facing criminalisation, marginalisation and discrimination in their individual countries.
In September 2021, EQUAL GROUND spearheaded a Writ Petition in the Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka, another first-of-its-kind legal case, against the Sri Lanka Police for contracting a purported mental health counsellor and allowing her to make homophobic, discriminatory and inflammatory speeches during a police training. Parties agreed in court to a comprehensive circular comprising guidelines to be issued among all Police stations when dealing with LGBTIQ issues in the future. Follow through with this timeline to understand each hurdle and milestone towards this remarkable achievement!
In 2022, a Private Member’s Bill to amend Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code with the aim of protecting the rights of the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka, was presented to the Parliament. This was later challenged for its constitutionality in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in April 2023 and EQUAL GROUND along with several others, submitted intervening petitions supporting the Bill. In a groundbreaking determination the Supreme court held that the Bill is not unconstitutional and gave the Sri Lanka parliament the green light for decriminalisation.