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Friday October 7th, 2022

LGBTQ rights: Sri Lanka still undecided, says govt in response to homophobic police video

ECONOMNYEXT – The government of Sri Lanka is still undecided on LGBTQ rights, but the matter is under discussion and representations have been made by various quarters, a top minister said after a video circulated online of a counsellor openly making homophobic remarks at a police training in Kandy.

The video, which surfaced on Twitter Monday (02) evening, showed the counsellor posing the question “Would you like your child to be a victim of a homosexual?” to an audience of police officers who all reply no in unison.

The trainer is heard advising the policemen and women against the union of same sex couples, adding that the members of the audience would not have been born had their parents been gay.

She also claimed that governments in Sri Lanka have been toppled over their stance on homosexuality.

The video came up at the weekly cabinet press briefing on Tuesday (03). Co-cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, responding to questions, said the matter of LGBTQ rights have come up “over and over again” and has been taken up for discussion.

“Right now, it’s not legalised – I don’t really know if law enforcement have been taking any action [against LGBTQ people] – but it’s a matter that’s under discussion,” he said.

Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code prohibit “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and “gross indecency between persons”, which rights groups including Human Rights Watch have said is “commonly understood in Sri Lanka to criminalise same-sex relations between consenting adults, including in private spaces.”

Human Rights Watch has documented that other laws, including a vaguely worded Vagrancy Law and a penal code provision banning “cheating by personation,” are also used to target transgender and gender non-conforming people for arrest.

“Police have carried out many such arrests with violence. Among the 61 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people interviewed for a 2016 Human Rights Watch report, 16 had experienced physical or sexual assault, including rape, by the police,” an HRW report published in October 2020 said.

According to Rambukewlla, recognising LGBTQ rights has not been completely ruled out.

“Nor has it been accepted. Right now, with the constitution, it is not. But it’s at a stage of discussion, with some kind of reasoning out,” he said.

“There are a few people and organisations who have made representations, so we’ll be looking seriously at it,” he added. (Colombo/Aug03/2021)

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