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Sri Lanka refuses to acknowledge LGBT rights

Speaking to the media, Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella maintained that Sri Lanka does not legally recognise the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community.

“As far as the Constitution of Sri Lanka goes it is not permitted. But there are discussions ongoing. This subject has been discussed over and over again. But right now it is not legalized,” he said. He further claimed that Sri Lanka’s police did not prosecute any LGBT activities.


Police brutality

This statement comes despite numerous reports detailing police violence and persecution of LGBT individuals in Sri Lanka.

Australia’s Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) 2019 report, illustrates:

“Police use sections 365 and 365 (a) of the Penal Code or the Vagrants Ordinance (which empowers authorities to detain people considered to be loitering in public) to threaten, harass, extort money and sexual favours, and arbitrarily arrest and detain LGBTI individuals”.

Human Rights Watch has reported that

“Nearly two dozen of the LGBTI people whom Human Rights Watch interviewed said they had suffered sexual, physical, or severe verbal abuse by the Sri Lankan police—nearly all of those reporting police abuse being transgender people or men who have sex with men (MSM) [...] More than half of this group said that police had detained them without cause at least once […] Seven LGBTI people told Human Rights Watch that police officers raped, threatened to rape, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed them”.

Sri Lanka’s legacy of criminalising LGBT identity can be traced back to British colonial rule and the imposition of their penal code. Sections 365 and 365A11 of Sri Lanka’s penal code, are remarkably similar to the penal codes of other former British colonies, including India. However, despite over seven decades passing Sri Lanka refuses to reform these measures.

Read more here: Tamil LGBTQ voices face even greater risk in Sri Lanka

Rambukwella statement comes in response to a question over a widely circulated video showing a counsellor discriminating against the LGBT community at a training session with the Police. The training session took place in Kandy where she gets the Police officers to also agree with her that they opposed same-sex relationships.

Rambukwella denied that awareness of this specific incident and maintained that he could not comment.

Senior Sri Lankan officials have a history of peddling anti-LGBT rhetoric with Sri Lanka’s former Justice Minister, Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa, having previously equated lesbianism with sadism and advocated for the rape of lesbians by convicted sexual offenders to “cure” them.

Read more here.

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