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THE STATUS OF LESBIANS, BISEXUAL WOMEN AND TRANSGENDER PERSONS IN SRI LANKA – REPORT – SRI LANKA

This report was prepared by Women’s Support Group, Sri Lanka in 2011. It sought to present the status of lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) persons in Sri Lanka.

The report focuses on Sri Lanka’s commitments under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It also points to a disregard for non-heterosexual women by the government. Furthermore, it lists a range of exclusions and discriminations faced by LBT persons, including:

DISCRIMINATION

  • The Constitution of Sri Lanka places a blanket ban on discrimination on certain grounds. However, it does not place list “gender identity”, “gender expression” or “sexual orientation” as prohibited grounds.
  • Section 365(a) of Sri Lanka’s penal code criminalizes consensual homosexuality in public and private spaces. The state and vigilantes often use this section to persecute LBT community members and activists.
  • Sri Lankan society is predominantly hetero-patriarchal. The report notes that this contributes to a denial of same-sex relations as well as stigma and humiliation against LBT persons. It recognises that these social attitudes contribute to tendencies of self-harm and suicide within the LBT community.
  • Police often arrest transgender persons under the pretext of arresting sex-workers. Persons who did not conform to heteronormative codes of gender expression were also commonly persecuted. Furthermore, persons from lower socio-economic groups were more likely to be affected.
  • There are no policies which address discrimination in accessing employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Transgender persons face very low employment rates
  • Same-sex partners are not allowed to register their marriage

ACCESS

  • Transgender persons face numerous hurdles in changing their identity documents to reflect their gender. In some cases, changing identity documents have been used as a prerequisite to accessing sex-reassignment surgeries.
  • Transgender persons are disregarded when healthcare services are designed. In fact, transgender persons are most often subject to medical “treatment” to “correct” their gender/sexual variance.
  • No practitioners perform sex-reassignment surgeries
  • The transgender community continues to be vulnerable to HIV
  • The state has not connstituted any government development programmes or other initiatives to recognise the economic and social needs of the community
  • Same-sex couples cannot access a range of social, economic and cultural rights because they cannot register their marriage
  • Same-sex couples cannot legally adopt children

RECOMMENDATIONS

The report urges for the decriminalization of homosexuality in Sri Lanka. It also advocates for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Finally, it suggests policies to protect equality LBT persons in the workplace.

READ FULL REPORT HERE.