ECONOMYNEXT – A United Nations body has found that Sri Lanka’s criminalisation of consensual same-sex relations between women is a human rights violation.
Welcoming the decision by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) committee at the UN, Equal Ground a non-profit organisation promoting sexual minority rights in the island, said it’s a ‘landmark decision’.
“The Sri Lankan government has ratified CEDAW, and this is therefore further encouragement for them to repeal these discriminatory laws and free us from the stigma and violence caused by criminalisation,” Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, the founder of Equal Ground said in a statement.
“This sends a strong message to Sri Lanka’s policymakers, as well as the international community, that ensuring the rights and equal treatment of all citizens– including LGBTIQ persons – and removing archaic, discriminatory laws, is foremost.”
Flamer-Caldera had worked with Human Dignity Trust (HDT) for almost eight years on her case, building evidence from the reports Breaking The Silence and Struggling against Homophobic Violence and Hate Crimes, along with her first hand narratives describing life in Sri Lanka for women such as herself, and highlights the local and global extent and impact of criminalisation of lesbian and bisexual women.
“It has been a long journey getting here, but I am satisfied with the ruling and happy that the years of hard work on this case was successful. This ruling will not only affect the community here but all over the world,” Rosanna Flamer-Caldera said.
The organisation said the decision “sets a major legal precedent, holding that the criminalization of lesbian and bisexual women violates the Convention”.
CEDAW has urged Sri Lanka’s government to also take measures to protect women against gender-based violence by adopting comprehensive legislation against discrimination against lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, and provide adequate protection, support systems and remedies, including reparation, to them who are victims of discrimination.
The CEDAW Committee has said that section 365A of the Penal Code of 1883 (amended in 1995) that criminalises same sex sexual relations between consenting adults compounds discrimination against women in Sri Lanka, and as such, violates lesbian and bisexual women’s right to non-discrimination under article 2 (a) and (d)–(g) of the Convention.
It has also recommended ensuring that victims of gender-based violence against the sexual minority community to have access to effective civil and criminal remedies and protection including counselling, health services and financial services, addressing workplace discrimination against LBTI women, and providing sensitisation training to law enforcement agencies.
Equal Ground said the case had argued that the discrimination within the law in Sri Lanka creates a hostile environment, legitimizing widespread societal stigmatization, violence and abuse.
Other activists globally too have welcomed this decision.
“This decision is significant for millions of criminalized lesbian and bisexual women around the world. Most of the 40-plus countries that currently criminalize same-sex intimacy between women have voluntarily signed up to the Convention and are now in clear and blatant violation of its binding legal obligations,” said Téa Braun, Chief Executive of HDT in the UK.
“This kind of ruling demonstrates the truth that has been denied for so many aching years!” South African Lesbian Activist Steve Letsike, Executive Director of Access Chapter 2 and the current Chair of the Commonwealth Equality Network stated. (Colombo/Mar24/2022)