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HUMAN RIGHTS FOR LGBT PEOPLE IN SRI LANKA

in SRI LANKA, 03/06/2005

Equal Ground Publishes a new report on LGBT issues entitled

Fifteen years ago on May 17th 1990, the General Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders. This action served to end more than a century of medical homophobia and prompted widespread discussion regarding the effects of homophobia. This year, Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals, Transgenders, Intersex and Questioning persons the world over will observe May 17th as the International Day Against Homophobia.

In Sri Lanka too, EQUAL GROUND (the only mixed organization mandated to serve the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) community of Sri Lanka) will observe the International Day Against Homophobia by launching its first Human Rights Publication entitled “Human, Right?”

The book aims to simplify the concept of human rights so that more people will understand its embracive framework. The book also sets the stage for transforming negative stereo-typing of persons of different sexual orientations and gender identities and fostering a better understanding of these persons in Sri Lanka.

“We chose this as an ideal day to launch our book as we feel it is a good tool to assist people in gaining a better understanding of the subject and hopefully, shed their homophobia!” said Rosanna Flamer-Caldera a spokesperson for EQUAL GROUND.

“Human, Right?” will be published in 3 languages - English, Singhala and Tamil - and is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. Authored by 3 LGBT activists, the book is aimed at a cross section of Sri Lankan society and will give the reader a basic knowledge of Human Rights, including LGBTIQ rights, within the larger Human Rights framework.

“It is our wish to create and awareness within this country that the Human Rights of those whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity differ from the hetero-normative, is just as important,” said Ranjan Karunaratne another member of the Organisation. “It is high time Sri Lankans shed their colonial past and acknowledged the LGBTIQ community as deserving of their inherent human rights. Years and years of discrimination have only served to drive these people into secrecy. They have been made to feel ashamed of who they are for no apparent
reason other than a misguided belief that homosexuality is bad‚ or sick.”

Often hidden due to social and judicial pressures, Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals,
Transgenders, Intersex and Questioning persons live fearful of victimization, choosing to stay in the closet lest they be ostracized and stigmatized due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This has, in turn, built up a culture of internalized homophobia within the LGBTIQ community itself. Social pressures to conform to hetero-normative behaviour precluding any and all sexual expressions that are not deemed within the framework of Social acceptance have
forced them into hiding and secrecy.

“We would like to change this attitude. The LGBTIQ community contributes equally in this country to its economic, spiritual and creative growth and it is not fair that they are marginalised because of misunderstandings and misconceptions forced on them and others by narrow minded thinking.”

The aim of this book is to create awareness to appreciate the rights of others, without bias and without prejudice. In doing so, it also acknowledges the many sub-identities that make up the whole identity of one individual and points out the diversity we each have as a Human.

The Organisation

Equal Ground has been constituted to work for a society in which the fundamental rights of all humans are respected. Recognizing that human rights transcend both religious doctrine and social approval, we have created an organization within which persons of different political affiliations, age, class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability and personal constitutions can work together toward an equitable society.

“Equal Ground strives to identify, address and transform the intellectual and cultural context that perpetuates a divisive Sri Lankan culture. The necessity for an organization like ours is that while promoting positive aspects of diversity, there is also a need to protect people whose sexual orientation and gender identity do not fall within the hetero-normative box society has created.

Though there is discussion about the complexity of gender and the reality that there are more than two strict gender identities (male and female), Sri Lankan society consistently discriminates socially, morally and legally against those whose sexual orientation and gender identity fall outside the hetero-normative and dual gender construct.

While issues related to gender identity and sexuality directly affect the LGBTIQ
community, they also affect individuals who are comfortable in their gender and/or identify as heterosexual. EQUAL GROUND strives to lessen and eliminate the physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological abuse stemming from theoretical and opinionated interpretations of gender and sexuality through encouraging a more evidence-based, accepting and embracive attitude toward diversity in Sri Lanka.

You can contact EQUAL GROUND by emailing them at: info@equal-ground.org
Or by writing to:

P.O. Box 2021
Colombo
Sri Lanka
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