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LGBT rights in Sri Lanka

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LGBT rights in Sri Lanka

LGBT rights in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Same-sex sexual activity legal?


penalty = If there is a punishment, fines and whipping (Section 365A). Forced governmental psychological homosexual treatments also possible.
Gender identity/expression
Discrimination protections None
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples

In Sri Lanka, homosexuality (same-sex romantic/sexual activity) is considered to be illegal under a broad provision dealing with, "gross indecency", a vestige of colonialism, and no national legislation exists to protect LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) people from harassment or discrimination.

Criminal law

Article 365A prohibits anyone, irrespective of gender, engaging in "gross indecency", which is not explicitly defined, although stiffer sanctions apply if one person is under the age of 16 or if any sort of injury was caused as a result. In 1995 the criminal law was amended to expressly prohibit "gross indecency" no matter the gender of the participants.[1]

Human Rights: Pre 2009

In 1995, G. L. Peiris, an MP then affiliated with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, proposed legalizing homosexuality when practiced between consenting adults in private. Instead of adopting his proposal, the Sri Lanka Parliament expanded the "gross indecency" law to both male and female same-sex sexuality (South China Morning Post, August 17, 1999).

In 1995, "Companions on a Journey" was established to promote the human rights of LGBT people, "in all races, religions and social levels". An editorial in the "Observer" newspaper supported the work of this organization, arguing that homosexuality was widely accepted in Sri Lanka society, until European colonization (South China Morning Post, August 17, 1999). Although not all newspapers were as supportive.

Sherman de Rose became one of the first gay people in Sri Lanka to publicly come out, through a press conference announcing the creation of the LGBT-rights group (The Sunday Leader 2011, "My Story".)

In 2001, one of the founding leaders of Companions on a Journey, Sherman de Rose, filed a complaint with the non-governmental Sri Lankan Press Council against the "Island" newspaper. Rose objected to the newspaper printing a letter, which advocated forcing gay women to be raped by men in order to 'cure' them. In rejecting the complaint, the Press Council stated that lesbianism is, "an act of sadism" itself, that homosexuality is an immoral and abnormal crime and that, as a man, Rose had no grounds to complain. [2]

In 2001, the Sri Lanka Ministry of Health invited representatives from the Companions on a Journey group to participate in a national committee on AIDS-HIV education.

In 2008 the Sri Lanka United Nations Representatives, abstained from signing a proposed United Nations document that called for nations to respect LGBT rights.

Human Rights 2010 - Present

In the aftermath of the civil war, none of the political parties in Sri Lanka have taken a public position in favor of LGBT-rights. The ruling center-right United National Party generally opposes LGBT-rights, at least when it comes to the subject of same-sex marriage.

The current Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, affiliated Sri Lanka Freedom Party reportedly opposed allowing Norway’s new ambassador to Sri Lanka, a woman, bring her wife into Sri Lanka. It has also been reported that the President felt that same-sex marriage in Sri Lanka would ruin the Buddhist heritage of the nation. (Gay Star News. August 2013)

Psychological Help/Treatment

Some private clinics in Sri Lanka claim to be able to "cure" patients of their homosexuality, although the World Health Organization does not view homosexuality, in itself, to be a mental illness. Groups such as "Companions On A Journey" and "Equal Ground" are countering these claims, with more accurate medical information.

Family and marriage

Sri Lanka family law does not recognize same-sex marriages or any similar sames-sex civil union. LGBT people who have come out to their family often report being verbally or physically harassed.[3]

In 2013, some Sri Lanka and foreign news reports talk about the "first" gay wedding in Sri Lanka, although there were some conflicting reports about the details. The ceremony was held in 16th of August in a House in Rathmalana area, and was raided by the police for violating "anti-corruption" laws. Details about the raid are somewhat conflicting. Some reports claim that the police raid was not because it was a gay wedding, but because the participants were under legal age or had some ties to prostitution. Other reports say that this was government crackdown on a gay couple (Neth FM Balumgala August 2013)

Transgender issues

While there are some traditional transgender practices associated with certain rituals, transgender people are victims of harassment and discrimination.[4] The term ponnaya is a negative word often used against transgender people or effeminate men.

Media & popular entertainment

  • Flying with one Wing (2002) – Asoka Handagama wrote and directed this film about a Sri Lankan woman who passes for a man in the society and in her personal relationships.[1]


While AIDS-HIV is not only a public health problem for LGBT people, the AIDS-HIV pandemic has helped to open up a more public debate about gender roles and human sexuality in Sri Lanka.[5] The high levels of poverty, combined with the stigma associated with the disease and conservative cultural mores has made it difficult to implement comprehensive prevention programs and to offer life saving treatment to those people already infected.

Initially. during the late 1980s – 1990s, the Sri Lanka government tended to ignore the pandemic. It was not until the early part of the twenty-first century, that a national AIDS-HIV policy was developed in Sri Lanka. This may have been because of the political instability in the government, during the civil war, or the taboo nature of the pandemic might have scarred off government officials.

Today, a National AIDS Council has been established, the government formally recognize the United Nations World AIDS Day, more public education about the disease is available and efforts are being made to combat the prejudice people living with AIDS-HIV face in the workplace.[5]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal No
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No

See also


  1. ^ a b "Sodomy Laws, Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  2. ^ "Defending Human Rights".  
  3. ^ "Sri Lanka's gays share their journey".  
  4. ^ "Gender Diversity and Transgender Issues". Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  5. ^ a b "HIV/AIDS". Retrieved 2011-02-05. 

External links

  • Sri Lankan Gay Community forum
  • Equal Ground
  • SodomyLaws: Sri Lanka
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