SL urged to repeal laws against lesbians, gays

Diplomat points out absurdity in continuing with British introduced legislation



By Shamindra Ferdinando


The European Union has stepped up its controversial campaign to pressure Sri Lanka to do away with Penal Code Sections (365 and 365A) which provide for prosecuting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons.


The EU sponsored business roundtable on the ‘challenges and benefits of the diversity in the workplace’ at the Taj Samudra yesterday with leading local LGBT organization Equal Ground spearheading the event.


The British High Commission backed the EU call with its Second Secretary (Political) Philippe Dickinson urging Sri Lanka to repeal the relevant sections without further delay. Dickinson pointed out the absurdity in Sri Lanka continuing with laws introduced by the British because they had already been abolished in the UK.


The US and the TIDES Foundation threw their weight behind the event.


On behalf of Equal Ground, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera addressed the gathering while newly appointed President’s Counsel Prasantha Lal de Alwis flayed successive governments for not repealing anti-LGBT laws. The PC called existing legislation ‘stupid laws.’


Responding to The Island queries, sources said the EU sponsored event was in line with ongoing overall programme to explain the urgent requirement to address concerns of Sri Lanka’s LGBT community.


They said the EU has discussed the issue with successive governments and was in the process of creating an awareness among the people.


The Joint Opposition has repeatedly accused the government of planning to legalise LGBT rights. The accusations have been denied by the President’s Office. The JO has alleged that the EU wants Sri Lanka to legalise LGBT rights in return for GSP plus.


Alleging that he LGBT community has been discriminated against for 134 years, Equal Ground has launched an online petition called 134 Campaign to garner support for their project. In support of the LGBT community, Equal Ground under the theme ‘Colombo Pride’ has organised several events, including, rainbow music and dance festival, bus parade and film festival Abhimani. Organisers have announced that a collection of ‘Queer’ short and feature length films from India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia, South Korea, America, Germany and Sri Lanka would be shown at the Goethe-Institut from June 18 to22.


The event at the Colombo Taj marked the beginning of Colombo Pride, week-long annual programme held with the support of a section of the diplomatic community.


Dileep Mudadeniya, Vice President of John Keells also addressed the gathering while the round-table was led by Joshua Senn, Acting Public Affairs Officer at the US embassy.


In response to a query by The Island, the EU Delegation in Colombo said: "The discussion focussed on the responsibility of corporate citizens to act as agents of change particularly with respect to human rights and the elimination of discriminatory practices in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.


"The speakers presented the ‘Business Case for Diversity and Inclusivity" with a special focus on the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning [‘LGBTIQ’] employees.


Evidence was provided to establish the existence of discrimination of employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and, the economic costs, such as lower productivity, increased employee absenteeism and employee turnover to underscore the importance of an open and accepting corporate culture."


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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