“Sri Lankan constitution protects Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”

Kathamandu- (Pahichan), October 16- The government of Sri Lanka has made it clear that the constitution in the country has protected Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI). Responding to the questions of Experts Committee for reviewing International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Sri Lanka, the government has clarified that SOIG is protected under Article 12 of the Sri Lankan Constitution, said Equal Ground, a nonprofit organisation seeking human and political rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning (LGBTIQ) community of Sri Lanka.

After the Sri Lankan government had not properly responded the questions of the committee, a the review meeting held on October 7 and 8 at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in Geneva, asked the government of Sri Lanka to explain what the government was doing to protect rights of LGBTI in the country.

Sri Lankan government was asked- (a) what has the government of Sri Lanka done to amend article 12 of Sri Lankan Constitution to include SOGI?, (b)   Why has the Government not decriminalised Homosexuality?, and (c)    What is the Government intending to do to protect LGBTI persons in Sri Lanka?

In reply, Ms. Bimba Jayasinghe Thilakeratne, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) with the Attorney General’s Department in Sri Lanka mentioned- Article 12.1 ensures equality for sexual orientation and gender identity, Article 12.2 Laws discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are unconstitutional, and Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal code do not target any particular group but is there to protect public morality.

Earlier, the Experts Committee had asked the government to indicate the measures taken to protect persons from stigmatization and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and indicate whether they are protected by the constitutional provisions on non-discrimination.

 Meanwhile, the Equal Ground has viewed the answers given by ASG as a positive response. “We are extremely pleased with this outcome and applaud the government for clarifying the interpretations of the Constitution and the law regarding SOGI in Sri Lanka,” Equal Ground said in a statement. “While this may not rain sunshine for the LGBTIQ community just yet, there is now at least, a sense of hope things will start changing in Sri Lanka and that the LGBTIQ community will be able to hold their heads a bit higher as the days go by.”

The organisation has also urged the government to open dialog with the LGBTIQ community, particularly those advocating for better treatment and equality for LGBTIQ individuals in the country and put in place, nondiscriminatory laws and statutes that will protect LGBTIQ community.