LGBTIQ community asks govt. to reconsider decriminalising homosexuality | Daily News

LGBTIQ community asks govt. to reconsider decriminalising homosexuality

The LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka has asked the government to reconsider decriminalizing homosexuality in Sri Lanka and recognize all its citizens as equals no matter their sexual orientation.

The Cabinet recently rejected draft proposals in the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) to repeal Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code which largely worked to perpetuate a cycle of violence against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Questioning/Queer (LGBTIQ) community in Sri Lanka.

A collection of Sri Lankans identifying as LGBTIQ, held a media briefing to reiterate the need to repeal Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code which the government has pushed against citing cultural reasons.

“We need to discuss what our culture really is, the hypocrisy through which we use it and who defines what culture is and should be,” said Senior Lecturer, Open University, Dr Harini Amarasuriya addressing the media.

“Culture is fluid and it changes with time as we become a more humane society. This is a good opportunity for us to highlight a more fundamental rights problem in our society and the question of whether all are equal before the law,” she added.

Sections 365/365A prohibit ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and “acts if gross indecency” and though it does not specify homosexuality, it is interpreted to mean so by law enforcement officers.

“They say that you do not need to repeal the law because it is not enforced. But when you do not have proper enforcement or application of the law, it allows various parties to misinterpret it to their advantage,” explained a member of the community, Vanadas Thyagarajah

“What is natural or unnatural should be decided by medicine and not by culture, otherwise we are in grave danger of maintaining structural violence,” he added.

Dr Dayanath Ranatunga, who sought to dispel myths surrounding homosexuality said, “Science shows that humans have both heterosexual and homosexual tendencies and who you are attracted to depends on which is more dominant. But at times certain, people exhibit homophobia, because they fear that by accepting homosexuality, their own tendencies might come out.”

In the 1990s, the American College of Psychiatrists decided that homosexuality was ‘normal’ and not a ‘deviation,’ while at the same time, the World Health Organization(WHO) whose standards we follow for all diseases, removed homosexuality from its Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders.

Thenu Ranken speaking on the difficulties faced by the community said, “There is a certain frame society imposes on us and if we do not fit in, we are rejected. No one asks why we do not fit in.”

Most have serious difficulties in receiving an education, work, housing and are isolated by family and friends.

“Our society has to take responsibility for every murder and suicide of members of the community. This is not a choice, this is how we were born and it is not an infringement on anyone’s life, this is a very personal aspect of our lives,” he said.

Madu Dissanayake, pointed out that given that the law criminalized LGBTIQ members, it made it harder for them to access to essential services.

Bhoomi Harendran, Human Rights and Transgender Activist said, “When accessing services, in hospitals or courts, services should not be provided based on who that person loves or what is between his or her legs.” 

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