sri lankans campaign to decriminalize same sex relationships
The decriminalization of same-sex relationships is a cause for activists. In the island nation, LGBTQ+ people have reported experiencing violence, forced marriages, and phony medical exams.
Jude Rameshkanth, a 28-year-old hospitality worker living abroad, was set up in an arranged marriage by his father this January when he visited his relatives in eastern Sri Lanka. However, Rameshkanth repeatedly told his family that he considers himself to be gay and that he has no interest in getting married to a woman. His family persisted in pressuring him to get married in a heterosexual relationship.
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“My brother warned me that his life would also be ruined if I did not get married. I [escaped] from home [late the following day] and took a bus to Colombo, Rameshkanth told the news agency.
Rameshkanth managed to avoid being forced into a marriage, but he now feels distant from his family and plans to leave Sri Lanka because he doesn’t “belong” there.
I regret not having the opportunity to meet the family at the recent church festival and new year’s celebrations, the man admitted.
It is “state-sponsored rape.”
In Sri Lanka, there are still several laws from the British colonial era that make same-sex relationships illegal and allow “offenders” to serve up to 10 years in prison.
For instance, “acts of gross indecency” and “carnal intercourse against the order of nature, with any man, woman, or animal” are both prohibited by Sections 365 and 365 A of the Penal Code.
While “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” broadly refers to all forms of sexual activity without a reproductive nature, Aritha Wickramasinghe, a lawyer and equality director at iProbono, a Sri Lankan organization that offers free legal services, claims that it has primarily been used to target homosexual and bisexual people.
Every LGBTQ+ person is now considered a potential criminal in the eyes of the law, according to Wickramasinghe. He claims the police have frequently arrested, charged, and harassed people using these laws.
According to Wickramasinghe, his organization handled a case in which three gay men were detained for sharing a meal in a hotel room after the receptionist became suspicious of their behavior. According to Wickramasinghe, this is “stereotyping” LGBTQ+ individuals.
The attorney claims that “suspected” LGBTQ+ individuals were required to undergo forced anal and vaginal examinations by so-called judicial medical officers in every case handled by iProbono.
“This is state-sponsored rape,” Wickramasinghe declared. It violates sexual norms.
The LGBTQ+ community experiences “discrimination and abuse.”
Activists in Sri Lanka have been working to decriminalize same-sex relationships for more than ten years. Sri Lanka has also decided to review its laws governing same-sex relationships due to increasing international pressure.
The government expressed support for a private members bill in parliament earlier this year.
According to local media reports, the government will “support” the decriminalization of same-sex relationships but will not legalize them. This was stated by the nation’s foreign affairs minister, Ali Sabry.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) recognized in 2022 that Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, a lesbian activist and the executive director of Equal Grounds, a Sri Lankan organization promoting LGBTQ+ rights, had rights that had been violated by the existing laws.
This week, the European Parliament supported the judgment and called for decriminalizing homosexuality and transgender identity worldwide.
According to Flamer-Caldera, the LGBTQ+ community in Sri Lanka is excluded from every aspect of life that heterosexual people take for granted, including education, health care, family life, and social services, due to the country’s colonial-era laws. Flamer-Caldera claims that the nation’s laws subject the community to “discrimination, marginalization, violence, and abuse.”
“Forced heterosexual marriages are very, very prevalent, not just for lesbian and bisexual women, but also for gay men and bisexual men,” she said, adding that this forces some people to lead a “double life.”
This campaign to decriminalize same-sex relationships in Sri Lanka is an important step towards creating a more inclusive and equal society. It is encouraging to see so many people coming together and fighting for this cause, as it shows that there is hope for the LGBTQ+ community in Sri Lanka. We hope that these efforts will be successful, and may lead to wider acceptance of queer identities across the country.