ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s law implementing police officials and health workers among the top in violating the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), according to a study, citing the complaints at the local Human Rights Commission and police.
A study conducted by Bridge to Equality, a civil rights group concerned over LGBTQ in Sri Lanka, shows that 160 rights violation cases reported to the police out of a total 235 during the 18 month period through March 31, 2023, are involved with police and health sector workers.
The data showed that police have been the perpetrators in 96 rights violation cases, while 64 cases are involved with health workers including medical officers.
“The analysis shows that some LGBTQ persons are reluctant to go to the authorities (such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka or the Police) due to the existing penal laws and various social stigmas that continues to exist in the society,” the Bridge to Equality said in the conclusion of the report based on the 235 complaints.
“These stigmas may include inaccurate perceptions that LGBTQ persons are psychologically unwell or that it is a trend or ‘lifestyle’ that conflicts with the Sri Lankan culture.”
The human rights violations have been involved with article 12 of the constitution which is involved with equality before the law and protection from discrimination, followed by article 11 which is linked to protection from torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.
The LGBTQ community also faces unlawful arrest, the report said.
Sri Lanka’s Penal Code, which states that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” is a criminal offence” makes gayism and lesbianism against the country’s law.
Meanwhile, the transgender community has been targeted by another section of the Penal Code which criminalises “pretending to be some other person.”
Civil groups such as the Human Rights Watch and iProbono have said that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have been subjected to forced anal and vaginal exams as well as being subjected to homophobic slurs from hospital staff.
The Health Ministry admitted that its workers have been violating the rights of LGBTQ.
“The LGBTQ+ community has been subjected to physical, verbal and sexual harassment by those in the medical field,” Anwar Hamdani, Director of Tertiary Care Services at the Ministry of Health, told EconomyNext.
Police Spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said only transgender people are legalized in Sri Lanka.
“Others are not legally accepted in the country. That’s how the police get included in this. Take lesbian as an example. There can be some who like it. However, even if there are people who are in favour of that, if some people complain about it, since it is not legally accepted then the police will have to take actions against it,” Thalduwa told EconomyNext.
“Since it is illegal, police will have to act on the existing law. Police do not have anything against it if that is legal. Maybe because of that there may be a perception saying the police are harassing them. But it is not like the police are going after individuals and harassing them.”
“However, when it comes to transgender issues the Police commissioner has issued circulars asking all police officers to take necessary precautions to not to harm the individuals privacy.”
While the repeal of the Penal Code that criminalizes gayism and lesbianism is currently in the process of being debated in parliament, convictions against those in the community are being carried out by the police.
“Other than a transition between genders, LGBTQ+ activity is unlawful in the country,” Thalduwa said.
“Therefore, those who are against the LGBTQ+ community look to the police to curb these activities. Because of its unlawful nature, convictions are being carried out.” (Colombo/June 08/2023)