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ILGA team in Geneva

in SRI LANKA, 26/04/2004

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera is the current Co-Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). She was re elected to the position at the World Conference in Geneva in 2006. In the 2 _ years preceding her first election to the Co-Secretary General’s post in 2003, Rosanna was the Female Representative of Asia to the ILGA Executive Board. She was instrumental in organizing the first ever ILGA Asia Regional Conference in Mumbai, India in 2002.

Rosanna was born in Sri Lanka and is a Burgher (of Dutch decent). After having lived in the USA for over 15 years she came back to her roots and began her activism in Environmental Conservation many years ago. Her focus shifted to LGBT activism when she joined a group of women interested in forming a Lesbian organization in Colombo. Rosanna is one of the founding members of the Women’s Support Group – the only LBT organization in Sri Lanka. Five years later in 2004, Rosanna felt the need to move on and start a new and unique organization named EQUAL GROUND – the only mixed LGBTIQ organization in Sri Lanka. In the wake of the Tsunami tragedy, EQUAL GROUND sprang into action collecting “pink dollars” to assist with Relief and Rehabilitation in the North East, East and South Coasts. Striving for an equitable status for all sexual orientations and gender identities, EQUAL GROUND is the only organisation in Sri Lanka to date to register as a LGBTIQ organization without diluting its aims and objective in return for legitimacy.

Sri Lanka is currently undergoing increased violence due to the ethnic conflict that has raged in this island nation for over 25 years. In parts of Sri Lanka, Tamil extremists and Muslim militias impose a death penalty for LGBT. In other parts, the rise of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism decries homosexuality as a western import and advocates intolerance and discrimination often culminating in violence. EQUAL GROUND is the only Human Rights organisation in Sri Lanka fighting for the rights of LGBTIQ persons.

As Secretary General of ILGA, Rosanna has been invited to speak and has attended many International events, including:

All African Symposium on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights (J’burg, South Africa 2004)
World Social Forum (Mumbai, India 2004)
UNIADS HIV/AIDS and Gender Conference (New Delhi, India 2004)
Donor Consultation on Global Networks (Nairobi, Kenya 2004)
UNCHR Panels and Forums – (Geneva, Switzerland 2004)
European Social Forum (London, England 2004)
ILGA Europe Regional Conference (Budapest, Hungary 2004)
The first Queer Conference on Sexuality and Gender in Asia (Bangkok, Thailand 2005)
UNCHR Panels and Forums – (Geneva, Switzerland 2005)
Series of Forums in Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, and Sydney Australia (2005)
Series of Forums in Auckland and Wellington New Zealand (2005)
Scientific Committee of the Out Games Consultation Meeting (Montreal, Canada 2005/2006)
Creating Change (Oakland, CA 2005)
Leadership Conference (Seattle, WA 2005)
Opening Plenary of the International Human Rights Conference of the First Out Games (Montreal, Canada 2006)
Creating Change (Kansas City, MO 2006)
Leadership Conference (Houston, TX 2006)
Swedish Parliament (Stockholm, Sweden 2006)
Human Rights Conference (Malmo, Sweden 2006)

Rosanna is currently active in ILGA’s accreditation process with ECOSOC and the UN CHR – two projects that have dominated LGBT agendas in the pat 5 years. In May 2006, Rosanna accompanied Yvan LaPointe the ILGA North America Representative) to the UN ECOSOC NGO accreditation meetings where the debate raged around the accreditation of CGLQ (Quebec, Canada), ILGA Europe and LSVD (Germany).

Under the existing Penal Code, homosexuality is still a criminal offense in Sri Lanka.

In 1995, section 365A of the Penal Code dealing with the criminalisation of homosexuality was challenged. Unfortunately it backfired and the Justice Minister deemed 365A as being gender biased and included Lesbians. This law unfortunately gives state agencies in Sri Lanka the license to act with impunity to harass and punish homosexuals in many unjust ways. Routine arrests without warrants, beatings and torture are common. Bribary and blackmail are also common tactics by law encforcement officers. The law also gives society the legitimacy to be homophobic and to treat LGBT persons with contempt and disdain, often resorting to violence, both physical and emotional. There are a number of reported cases of Lesbian suicides and violence against LGBT persons, forced heterosexulaity by families and many other abuses. Discrimination due to sexual orientation is prevelent in the workplace, in health care, in sports, in the family and in the legislature.

At home in Sri Lanka, my work with the Brazillian Resolution has encompassed many aspects.

I have had contact with HE the President, HE The Prime Minister, The Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Minister of Justice, the Head of Mission to the UN in Geneva and the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy). Dr. Coomaraswamy was previously the Special Repporteur on Violence Against Women. I have met with her and Human Rights Lawyers and discussed our position within the HR framework and the Sri Lankan context. The Internet and email has also been a key tool in disseminating information regarding the resolution.

Sri Lanka's stance in Geneva

I have had the pleasure of meeting with the Head of Mission H.E. Sarala Fernando and the Assistant Director UN & Multilateral Affairs – Mr. Ekanayake from the Foreign Ministry. The opinion was that Sri Lanka's stance was very much in keeping with their friendship with the OIC as well as the country’s legislature, Penal Code 365A, being very much in the forefront of the issue.
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