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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

UN body finds Sri Lanka’s criminalisation of same-sex relations between women human rights violation

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)

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Sri Lanka halts parate execution of defaulted SME loans

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will suspend the procedure for banks to acquire properties used as a collateral in the event the loans are not paid off, until December this year.

“Various parties have pointed out issues existing in paying off the loans obtained by small and medium scale businessmen from banks,” Cabinet spokesman minister Bandula Gunawardena said Tuesday.

“Therefore, it is apparent that a sufficient grace period to pay off relevant debts without being a burden to the banking system should be allowed.”

“Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers granted approval to the proposal furnished by the President in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, Economic Stabılızation and National Policies to suspend the procedure by the banks to acquire properties of loans not paid off, until 15 December 2024, and to amend Section 4 of the Recovery of Loans by Banks (Special Provisions) Act No, 4 of 1990 to impose legal provisions required for the above.” (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Sri Lanka parliamentary committee says electricity tariffs should be reduced by 20 pct

ECONOMYNEXT — A parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis has recommended to the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) that electricity tariffs be reduced by at least 20 percent.

A statement from parliament said on Monday February 26 that, following an analytical review of the figures presented by the Electricity Board, Public Utilities Commission, etc. and taking into consideration all other factors affecting the price of electricity, including considering the opinion given by experts that the existing electricity price can be reduced by about 33%, price of electricity should be reduced by at least 20% in the year 2024 so that the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) will not suffer any loss.

PUCSL officials have informed the Committee that by the end of this month, they can submit the necessary recommendations to reduce the electricity bill, according to the statement.

The matter was taken up for discussion when the committee, chaired by MP Gamini Waleboda, met in the Parliament on February 22.

Officials from the Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Public Utilities Commission, Industry Development Board, Enterprise Development Authority, Department of Population and Statistics, Department of Inland Revenue and from government institutions including the Micro, Small and Medium Scale Industries Board and a group of industrialists had also been called for the meeting.

“The Committee gave several directives to the relevant institutions and officials to identify the micro, small and medium scale industries that are directly affected by the economic crisis and to activate the local economy and increase the foreign exchange earnings by reviving the industry sector.

“The Committee pointed out that due to the increase in electricity bills, the number of electricity connection cuts reported across the island has exceeded one million. It was also emphasised that in order to alleviate the pressure on the industry and the society, it should be arranged to provide electricity connections again by charging only 50 percent of the outstanding charges at the initial stage with the concessional basis of payment of outstanding electricity charges on installment basis,” the statement said.

The committee was also of the view to allow the customer to pay the connection fee in installments so as to avoid discouraging new entrepreneurs to start micro, small and financial industries due to high charges for getting fixed electricity connection and instructed to review the new connection fee and work to reduce it as much as possible.

The committee chair has instructed the PUCSL to conduct an audit on the electricity consumption in the public sector as an approach to ensure energy security.

“The Committee recommended to the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank to start a loan scheme at subsidised interest for the purchase of solar panel systems with a view to promoting solar energy as a source of energy supply to industries. The Ministry of Finance expressed its agreement to provide refinancing facilities subject to a maximum as per the proposal made by the Committee to implement a loan scheme targeting micro, small and medium scale industrialists under subsidized interest rates.

The committee has also recommended that raw materials that must be imported from abroad and impose tax concessions on such raw materials be identified to ensure the supply of raw materials required for the smooth running of micro, small and medium scale industries. Copper, lead, aluminum and other industrial scraps used as raw materials in various domestic industries currently being sold by the CEB to external buyers and other entities should also be issued to micro, small and medium scale industrialists recommended by the Ministry of Industry and the Industrial Development Board, the committee has recommended.

The definition used by the Department of Population and Statistics for micro, small and medium industries and the definition used by other institutions such as the Industrial Development Board and the Central Bank for those industries are different from each other, which is an obstacle in making policy decisions, the committee had noted, directing the Department of Population and Statistics to support to the policymakers by releasing statistical data based on a common definition.

“The committee also recommended that the Credit Information Bureau should take prompt action to remove their credit information from the blacklists so as to facilitate access to credit facilities for micro, small and medium scale industries facing financial crisis to activate their balance sheets and to review all existing laws and procedures for registration of micro, small and medium scale industries as well as to obtain licenses and introduce a simple system.

“The committee informed all the parties to establish a steering Committee headed by the Ministry of Industry to implement the recommendations given by the Committee and to report its progress within a week,” the statement said. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Sri Lanka sets up fund to help children of Gaza

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is mandated to provide education, health, relief and social services, and emergency assistance to refugees. (Pic courtesy UNWRA)

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers have approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to set up a fund to help children caught in the war in Gaza, a statement said.

The government will contribute a million US dollars and use funds allocated by state agencies for Ifthar celebrations.

Public contributions are also called.

The Presidential Secretariat is requesting public donations citizens for the “Children of Gaza Fund” to be contributed to account number 7040016 at Bank of Ceylon (7010), Taprobane Branch (747) by 11th April.

Deposit receipts should to be forwarded to 0779730396 via WhatsApp. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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