The Minister of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka, PC Ali Sabry has announced that the government will be supporting the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relationships in the country. Following the 42nd session of the Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Working Group, Sri Lanka was called on to uphold the rights of the LGBT+ community. The global urge towards ending discrimination and harassment of members of the community has steered the government’s initiatives towards decriminalisation.
In Sri Lanka, although no law specifically criminalises homosexuality or same-sex sexual relations, Sections 365 and 365A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code are erroneously used to target the LGBT+ community by law enforcement authorities.
The authorities have disregarded cases of consenting adults in private spaces and resorted to arbitrary arrests as well as physical and mental torture. In addition to the harassment, the arbitrary application of Penal Code provisions has also restricted LGBT+ persons from relying on the support and protection of law enforcement agencies and healthcare, to avoid being prosecuted.
Recent cases handled by various LGBT+ rights organisations in Sri Lanka and iProbono have also evidenced the unfair persecution of LGBT+ individuals using these provisions. Cases of inhumane treatment of LGBT+ persons have led to forced anal and vaginal examinations, and an increase in human rights violations by law enforcement authorities.
Through the initiative of the Private Members Bill put forward by Government MP Premnath C Dolawatte in amending/repealing Sections 365 and 365A, the foreign minister has confirmed that the government will be supporting the position of decriminalising same-sex relationships. The draft bill is currently within review of the Attorney General’s Department to clarify consistency with the Constitution.
LGBT+ organisations advocating for the rights of the community have been pushing for the repeal or amendment of Sections 365 and 365A for nearly three decades. Many former British colonies that have been in anguish with the draconian Victorian laws have recently been pushing for the decriminalisation of anti-LGBT+ laws.