Sri Lanka plans to decriminalize homosexuality and have assured Human Rights experts that.
Currently, it is still illegal to be gay in Sri Lanka under laws inherited from the country’s colonial past. It maintains an archaic “gross indecency” law that bans gay sex.
The government has previously rejected calls to change the law – though it paradoxically has taken steps to ban anti-gay discrimination in the workplace.
As part of Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) this issue was raised, responding to the UN’s Human Rights Council earlier this month, the country vowed to reassess the anti-gay law.
The Sri Lankan government received seven specific recommendations to amend sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code, which target people in consensual, adult same-sex relationships
Further recommendations were made for the state to adopt measures to combat the discrimination faced by the LGBTIQ community.
Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle, the country’s representative, said that the government is committed to reforming Sri Lanka’s penal code to ensure that it meets international human rights standards. He also said the country planned to make the right to non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity “explicit” in law.
Mr Pulle said: “Despite social, political and cultural challenges that remain with respect to reforming law, Sri Lanka remains committed to law reform and guaranteeing non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The change may find some support in the country.
Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court recently noted: “The contemporary thinking [is that] consensual sex between adults should not be policed by the state nor should it be grounds for criminalisation.”
In a release Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Executive Director of Sri Lankan LGBT rights group EQUAL GROUND, said: “No one deserves to be targeted by the law because of who they are or whom they love.
“Our government has shown significant resolve in pledging to address the criminalisation faced by the Sri Lankan LGBTIQ community and guarantee them basic rights that have for so long been denied.
“Whether LGBTIQ or not, we are all entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights. We look forward to the government fulfilling on this commitment.
“We welcome the Government of Sri Lanka’s willing and continued engagement with the Human Rights Council and the UPR process, and commend in particular our government’s commitment to the full realisation of human rights for all citizens in the country.”
The activist added: “We are pleased that in this regard our Government specifically addressed the questions and concerns raised by the UN Member States about the continued criminalisation of consensual same sex sexual conduct and the discrimination and violence faced by the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka.
“We are very grateful for the efforts of the international community who continue to raise their concerns over the treatment of the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka and greatly appreciate the recommendations that have been made today.”