Sri Lanka moves towards decriminalizing homosexuality amid criticism
Colombo, Aug 24 (EFE).- Sri Lanka took a fresh step on Wednesday for the passage of a bill that seeks to decriminalize sexual relations between same-sex couples, something that could bring relief to the LGBT community that considers itself persecuted by the government.
The bill proposing to amend Article 365 of the Penal Code was handed over to President Ranil Wickremesinghe by lawmaker Premnath Dolawatte.
Article 365, dating back to 1886, criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal,” making it punishable by up to ten years in prison.
The proposal also seeks to amend paragraph A of the same article which criminalizes “any person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any person, of any act of gross indecency with another person.”
Although the 135-year law is still in force, it has fallen into disuse.
For Dolawatte, although the initiative to decriminalize homosexuality took a long time to come, the time is ripe for the change, as it enjoys public support.
“Countries like India and Singapore have changed their laws (regarding LGBT+ rights). We are still far behind. I wanted to present this Bill as a tribute to Mangala Samaraweera on his death anniversary,” Dolawatte told EFE refering to the country’s first openly gay politician.
Samaraweera, who twice served as finance minister, was outspoken in his support for Sri Lanka’s LGBT community and advocated against their discrimination.
While members of the LGBT community welcomed the move to amend Article 365, they considered it as an attempt by the Wickremesinghe government to “whitewash” its acts of repression of anti-government protests in recent months.
A statement signed by the “Members of the LGBTQI+ community of Sri Lanka and allies” underlined that the state was trying to give a “progressive” turn to the repression of the protests using their community.
Several civil and human rights organizations have denounced the detention and repression by the authorities of people who participated in the anti-government protests over the country’s economic crisis, including leaders of the LGBT community.
“This crackdown seemingly aims to intimidate and silence Sri Lankans who have been voicing dissent against the Government, including LGBTQI+ Sri Lankans,” said the statement. EFE