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Sri lanka News – A private member’s bill submitted to parliament seeking to amend Sri Lanka’s penal code with the aim of protecting the country’s LGBTQI community has been handed over to President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

A statement from the president’s office said ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP and attorney-at-law Premanath C Dolawatte presented a copy of the bill to the president on Wednesday August 24.

“The society of this country has an extremely backward notion regarding the LGBTQ+ community and as a result, not only in daily life, but even in government and law enforcement agencies, this community has been subjected to various forms of violence, oppression and harassment,” the statement from the president’s office said.

At times, even their democratic basic rights have been violated, it added.

Sri Lanka has not recognised LGBTQI rights legally, and the island nation’s four-decades-plus-old constitution only mentions men and women.

The penal code criminalises voluntary “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” which is used to discriminate against LGBTQI individuals.

Earlier in August, Sri Lanka amended an emergency law after concerns were raised that members of the LGBTQI+ community were exposed to arbitrary arrest in a new gazette notice.

In an gazette notice published under the hand of President Ranil Wickremesinghe Articles 365 and 365A of the Penal Code from regulations 11 and 12 of the Emergency proclamation were removed.

The emergency has since lapsed.

Related:

Sri Lanka amends emergency law to protect LGBTQI+ community

A private member’s motion was tabled in parliament on in March this year by a member of the main opposition to ban the unscientific practice of conversion therapy by unregistered clinics to “cure” LGBTQI people.

Related:

Sri Lanka opposition MP tables private motion to ban conversion therapy

Sexual literacy among Sri Lankans is low. A video surfaced in August 2021 of a police training in Kandy, where a counsellor was heard making homophobic remarks to a packed audience of junior policemen and women. The offending video, which was shared on social media on August 02, showed the woman posing the question “Would you like your child to be a victim of a homosexual?” to which the audience replied “no” in unison.

The statement from the president’s office further said: “Punishment of individuals based on sexual orientation and sexual identification was spread throughout the world by colonial legal systems in the Victorian era. But in modern psychiatry, this is not considered a crime or a perversion. Also, developed countries have worked to amend the laws that penalise this community and limit their rights.”

It was with this in mind, it said, that MP Dolawatte had submitted the bill to amend the penal code.

However, a group of LGBTQI community members said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon that the presentation of the bill, while welcome, amid a “campaign of widespread government repression raises concerns about its motives”.

(Colombo/Aug24/2022)

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