CONCERNED CITIZENS AGAINST 365 & 365A
The current Penal Code in Sri Lanka, section 365 and 365A are relicts of Colonial rule. Enacted in 1886, the two sections that have been used to criminalise homosexuality in Sri Lanka read as follows:
365: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be punished with fine and where the offence is committed by a person over eighteen years of age in respect of any person under sixteen years of age shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than ten years and not exceeding twenty years and with fine and shall also be ordered to pay compensation of an amount - determined by court to the person in respect of whom the offence was committed for injuries caused to such person.
365A: 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, shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description, for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both and where the offence is committed by a person over eighteen years of age in respect of any person under sixteen years of age shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than ten years and not exceeding twenty years and with fine and shall also be ordered to pay compensation of an amount determined by court to the person in respect of whom the offence was committed for the injuries caused to such person.
The laws are vague and ambiguous leaving interpretation of the law to the police and to the judges hearing such cases. It is interesting to note however, that no one has been convicted under these laws in the past 50 years. Also interesting to note, that the laws apply to both homosexual and heterosexual sex when it interprets “Any act of gross indecency”yet only homosexuals are labeled criminals under 365 and 365A of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka.
Since 1886, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) persons in Sri Lanka have suffered under the yoke of criminalisation. The criminalisation of same sex relationships and the resultant cultural and social stigmas attached to homosexuality and transgender means that the LGBT community of Sri Lanka faces all forms of discrimination, marginalisation and violence resulting in mental health issues, low self esteem and internalised homophobia.
Advertisements are often placed by 'practitioners' claiming to cure persons of homosexuality as well as the consequences of it, grossly exploiting susceptible persons, especially young persons and their hardships. Families suspecting family members of being queer often ARRANGE and FORCE marriages and in extreme cases there is curative rape of lesbian and bisexual women. Violence in all forms is perpetrated against LGBT persons across the board, by family members and society at large. This violence, and resultant discrimination, is further validated by the behavior of authorities towards LGBT persons who are often blackmailed, ridiculed and in some instances raped. Shame and internalised homophobia still remains, causing LGBT persons to go deeper and deeper underground. In several reported cases, LGBT persons have committed suicide because they can no longer live with the pressure put on them by families and society to conform to the heterosexual ‘norm’.
Further, due to the existing penal code and lack of protective measures for LGBT persons, they are afforded no recourse to justice. LGBT persons often leave instances of violence unreported due to the fear of their sexuality being divulged as well as the shame associated with it. On the rare occasions they do report such instances, authorities have in the past abused confidential information to further victimise the individuals.
A law that is over one hundred years old, which directly hinders equal rights for all, no longer serves its populous. Such a law must be revoked. Consensual sex between adults should not be policed by the State nor should it be grounds for criminalisation.
We the undersigned urge the Government of Sri Lanka to stop the discrimination against LGBT people of its country and repeal Sections 365 & 365A of the Sri Lanka Penal Code. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to support equal rights for ALL its citizens.