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 Post subject: Homosexuality - A controversial issue in Sri Lanka
 Post Posted: Sat Jul 08, 2006 4:05 am 
Homosexuality - A controversial issue in Sri Lanka

Criminalised and penalised, homosexuality is one of the most controversial issues debated in Sri Lanka. Mostly talked about in hushed tones, behind closed doors or among exclusive groups, it is one of the most public secrets in the country. Among the most frequented views about homosexuality in this country are that it is a Western concept; it is a disease; it is a psychological disorder; it is a class determination and lastly, it does not exist in Sri Lanka.

Source: Eye / 02July2007
By Vindya Amaranayake


Homosexuality is a crime according to the Penal Code of Sri Lanka.
According to the Section 365 (A) of the Penal Code of 1883 “Acts of Gross Indecency between Male Persons” was categorised under “Unnatural offences.” This section was amended by Penal Code (Amendment) Act no 22 of 1995 and created a new offence, “Acts of Gross Indecency between Persons.”

Under the earlier Act only males were liable to be guilty of this offence but the amendment moved on to include women too.
According to the definition of Sec 365 (A) any person who in public or private commits any act of gross indecency with another person shall be guilty of this offence. If between consenting adults both parties will be found guilty.

Also any person who is a party to commission of the offence or procures or attempts to procure will also be found guilty and if so is punishable with rigorous imprisonment up to two years and whipping.

However the preceding section i.e. Section 365 relating to unnatural offences stipulates that whoever performs a sexual act against the order of nature with a man, woman or animal could be punished with a maximum of a ten years imprisonment.

According to a new amendment if the offence is committed by a person over 18 years of age in respect of any person less than 16 years of age, the person is punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term ranging from 10 to 20 years.

However, these provisions have rarely been used or not used at all against persons who committed homosexuality since the principal enactment coming into effect in 1883.

In July 20, 2005 Sri Lanka held the first ever gay pride event which is, according to www.utopia-asia.com, “a date that will be remembered for years to come as more than 300 people packed into a leading discotheque in Colombo for a very memorable celebration.” Organised by Equal Ground which hails itself as the only organisation in Sri Lanka serving the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) community, Colombo Pride was attended by persons with varied sexual orientation and gender identity.

Unfortunately there is no real understanding what homosexuality is all about in Sri Lanka

The Nation spoke to the Equal Ground’s Executive Director Rosanna Flamer-Caldera on the subject of being proud of one’s sexual orientation.
Rosanna stressed the importance of recognising and respecting sexual preference as a fundamental human right and not as grounds to discriminate people.

She said, “Legally homosexuality is still a criminal offence in Sri Lanka. In an absolutely backward step in 1995 the Justice Ministry also placed women in that category. Now, both male and female homosexuality is condemned in Sri Lanka.”

However, when it comes to social acceptance, it is something that has stuck in the mud so far. Although today people appear to be more open minded about the existence of diverse sexual preferences, there is no real understanding of the problems and the difficulties faced by the gay people in this country. In every social economic and political sphere people are being discriminated over their sexual preference.

“Families put an enormous amount of pressure on people to get married, to enter into heterosexual marriages. And the stigma attached to being homosexual is such that even a gay person feels that their best opportunity is to get married to somebody of the opposite sex, so that they can hide behind the legitimacy of heterosexual marriage,” Rosanna said.

Although when it comes to acceptance there is no difference in the difficulties faced by men and women. No matter against whom it is aimed, discrimination against homosexuals is a violation of their rights. However, women find it tough with or without the added burden of having to defend their sexual rights, which at the same times includes their gender identity. She said, “For women it is a bit more difficult because being a woman in Sri Lanka is tough to begin with. Then you add to that being lesbian or transgender, the pressure mounts.”

In the past few years several suicide cases were recorded as lesbian couples have committed suicide because of social stigma, because the families are insisting that they should get married.

Talking about the Gay Pride Celebration that took place in Sri Lanka last year Rosanna said that it was all about empowering the gay community to give them a sense of self worth that does not come from other people but as something that should generate from within. “It is called gay pride because the gay community in Sri Lanka needs to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. They should be proud of who they are,” she added.

She asserted that Gay Pride is not something for heterosexual people to be given to homosexuals as nobody has the right to say what the others should be or should not be.

“It is heterosexual people who have condemned us. It is archaic laws dating back to Victorian times that still exist in this country so that it makes it difficult for gay people to live productive or normal lives.”
Rosanna denied the allegations that class is an important element in the gay rights movement in Sri Lanka. She said, “I do not think it is a true assertion to say that it is ok to be gay when you belong to a certain class. It is a problem whichever way you look at it.”

She insisted that “homosexuals with money suffer from the same problems as those who do not have money. They still have to get married and please Ammi and Thathi.

Stigma does not stop at class. Stigma goes right through class, caste and ethnicity. It does not really matter. One or two people might be able to get through because they are financially independent but generally it is problem faced by all.”

For example Rosanna pointed out an anecdote about a Managing Director of a blue-chip company in Sri Lanka who is gay but does not want to say he is because he is afraid what his board of directors, customers and staff would say. “This man is in a high position but he is scared to death of his sexuality,” she added.

In conclusion … (?)
Whatever said and done, at the end of the day it must be stated that we live in a divided world where our choices and preferences are checked by political and cultural sentinels. If it not our sexual preferences that divide us it is our class. When one group is privileged the other is discriminated against. The day when it is possible for us to live in a kind of utopia that has no gender, class, ethnicity or sexual orientation bias, there will be total ‘liberation’ for all of us!



Attitudes towards homosexuality

By Chamindra Wickremasinghe

“If you can look at a woman and love her why cannot you look at a man and love him?” While some thus question, others cling onto the concept - it is against nature, religion and the culture of our country. There is a deep diversity in the perception of homosexuality and lesbianism among people.

The belief some have that one has a right to decide his or her sexuality justifies homosexuals’ and lesbians’ sexual identity. “When he or she reaches adolescence and if he or she has no definite attraction to the opposite sex but to their own,” a director and a counselor of a renowned private organization for psychotherapy said she firmly believes. “It is not wrong.”

“We have started finding our true sexuality,” Lakpriya, a 21 year old law student commented.

However, why do lesbians and homosexuals need counselors’ assistance then?

“Feeling of guilt and shame because in our society it is not still accepted – especially among the older generations who believe all this would put an end to marriage. They feel they are doing something incorrect, against; they come for reassurance because they have none to turn to” the counselor revealed. They appear a suppressed lot. “It is a great thing that we are here for them – this place is there to feel and understand them,” but, by being non judgmental and taking them down the road where they are able to see the repercussions, sexual diseases, the individuality and the options the society offers for their sexuality, without having a tunnel vision about it, she added.

Homosexuality and lesbianism affect the subsistence of the human race - this is one fact many emphasized on. As to Buddhism, it is a violation of the third precept, “Kamesu micchacara veramani-sikkhapadam samadiyami,” which means “I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.” On one hand it causes the existing families’ downfall, on the other homosexuality or lesbianism leaves no room for the formation of the family unit, a Buddhist monk stated. A lecturer in Philosophy and Psychology, Mrs. Asha Weerathunga had personally experienced many of them wanting to get themselves freed from their addiction to it, “they worry a lot whether this would bring problems after marriage,” she said. Contrarily, “I do not think people should try to correct those tendencies (the inability to have opposite tendencies) by making marriages of convenience,” Lakpriya believes. The idea, homosexuality affects marriage is “Illogical” for the counselor.

“Everybody says it is bad.” A school leaver, Kumarini, still follows this notion. The stories she had heard about lesbians that they write letters to each other in blood, define lesbians as “eerie” for her. She related children were even expelled from school at the discovery of their lesbianism however, admitting she is ignorant of how one becomes a homosexual or a lesbian.

Psychologist, Mrs. Weeratunga does not believe lesbianism and homosexuality an atypical condition, a syndrome, or a psychosomatic disease anymore.

Though many think it is ‘genetic’ a doctor revealed no research had proven it. A child involved in homosexuality or lesbianism by an adult would find it pleasurable as he grows up and become a homosexual - thus ‘influence’ plays a major share in it, Mrs. Weeratunga said.

Acknowledging that it had been there even Plato and Aristotal’s times, and for quite a long time in our own society, its hidden nature she believes made people treat it as a disorder. It is the prejudices in our society that restrict lesbians and homosexuals coming out, Lakpriya thinks.

The Bible cannot be denied, “No homosexual offender will inherit the kingdom of God,” Sulochana, a teacher stated explaining the Christian belief - if you are a homosexual you sin against God and it is a sin against our own body. “We should neither pity nor corner them – if they are happy in it, us trying to stop it is not good either,” Mrs. Weeratunga thinks. Homosexuals and lesbians establishing communities world-wide and our society acting for such issues accordingly is also unimportant because there is a naturally set pattern for everything, trying to cross those borders is not something that will subsist, she said. “We are becoming liberal too fast – there should be a gradual shift on the acceptance of homosexuality and lesbianism in society and it could be unjust if we stress and call for legislation like homosexual marriages and adoption of children right now but definitely in due course.” Lakpriya .

Many – educated, uneducated, religious, and non-religious refused to comment on the issue of homosexuality. Some voiced their opinions but did not want their identities revealed - the two words ‘homosexual and lesbian’ themselves shook many. Should we be more open about this way of life or should we conceal it more and more taking it nowhere but keeping just an issue with unfathomable diverse perceptions?


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