Sri Lankan president says govt won’t oppose bill to decriminalize homosexuality
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who took office in July, said on Sunday that the Sri Lankan government would not oppose a motion to decriminalize consensual sex between same-sex couples in the country.
Speaking to Samantha Power, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Wickremesinghe said the bill, which would amend Sections 365 and 365A of the Sir Lanka Penal Codewill still need the support of parliamentarians.
“We are for it, but you have to get support from individual members. It’s a matter of private conscience,” Wickremesinghe told Power in Colombo on Sunday.
Member of Parliament and Attorney Premnath C. Dolawatte submitted the invoice titled “Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill (19th Act) to amend the Criminal Code” in Wickremesinghe on August 24 as a private member’s bill.
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“The society of this country has an extremely backward idea of the LGBTQ+ community and because of this, not only in activities of daily living but even in government and law enforcement agencies, this community has been subjected to various forms of violence, oppression and harassment,” the president’s media division said in a statement.
Under sections 365 and 365A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code, those who are caught having voluntary sexual relations with persons of the same sex can face a prison sentence of at least 10 years and up to 20 years with fines.
“A law that is over a hundred years old, that directly impedes equal rights for all, no longer serves its people,” said a Change.org petition read. “Such a law must be repealed. Consensual sex between adults should not be controlled by the state or be grounds for criminalization.
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same sex sex has been criminalized under British colonial rule when the occupiers created Sections 365 and 365A of the Criminal Code of Sri Lanka in 1883.
Although the LGBTQ-plus community and their allies welcomed the new bill, the news came amid developments that have severely affected the lives of LGBTQ-plus people in the country.
A factory worker has found himself out of a job after recently coming out as a transgender man last year. The man, identified as Chameera, 26, met his partner Nimalka, a 30-year-old bisexual woman, at United Tobacco Processing (UTP) about three years ago. They initially kept their relationship a secret, but after coming out as a transgender man, Chameera found himself the target of discrimination in their workplace.
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“They [managers] told him to stop coming to work like that,” Nimalka said. Women’s Media Center. “Some managers told him it was a sin to be trans. The last time Chameera met the managers, they even took off his mask to see if he had grown a beard.
Ashila Dandeniya, founder of Stand Up Movement Lanka and former garment factory worker in Katunayake, one of Sri Lanka’s 12 export processing zones where UTP also operates, told WMC that “managers and supervisors humiliate and intimidate [LGBTQ-plus] factory people.
After learning that the factory had terminated Chameera’s contract, Nimalka told WMC, “I’m afraid Chameera is doing something in his life.”
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In February 2021, a lesbian was found dead by suicide after the same factory ridiculed her and refused to allow her to work after she cut her hair short, Dandeniya said. When news of his death immediately spread among other workers, Dandeniya added, “Now they don’t hire anyone with short hair. The moment you cut your hair, they saw you.
Featured image via Jernej Furman (CC BY 2.0)