When it comes to the rights of minorities, Sri Lanka has been lagging behind for decades as a nation. This is especially true for the LGBTQ community of the country. Recently, the Sri Lankan government has been proactive in addressing these humanitarian issues. On August 24, 2022, Premanath Dowanatte, a Sri Lankan government MP, stepped forward and presented a copy of his presentation seeking protection of the rights of the indigenous LGBTQ community.
In essence, the bill is an initiative aiming to amend the existing bills that have been in place for decades. A statement from the president's office suggests that the bill seeks a review of the existing laws. “The LGBTQ+ rights laws that have been in place for years are not justifiable,” says the statement. That is why minorities, especially the LGBTQ community, suffer both at the individual, societal and governmental levels. Furthermore, the statement asserts that the LGBTQ community is suppressed and deprived of their basic human rights.
However, it is essential to note here that the Sri Lankan government has failed to address the grievances of the religious and gender minorities. The current president Ranil Wickremesinghe has been scrutinized for his inability to tackle the minority issues throughout the country. This time, the president is seemingly convinced by the bill that has been handed over to him - seeking the protection of the rights of the LGBTQ community.
Sri Lankan Government Has Not Legalized LGBTQ+
It is no more a secret that Sri Lanka has conventional laws - that have been in place for decades - that do not acknowledge LGBTQ communities. They only have two identifications of gender: Men and women. This means that the indigenous LGBTQ community has no legal identification, implying that they have no legal rights. Essentially, the Sri Lankan legislation has outlawed the LGBTQ community, saying it is disloyal to the natural discourse. This means that the Sri Lankan government does not acknowledge LGBTQ in the first place.
Sri Lankan lawmakers suspect that the president and the legislation will not approve this bill. Because it goes against the existing legislation of the Sri Lankan government, the president will have a tough time approving this ‘controversial bill.’
Amendment in the long-existing laws is not the only problem for Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe. Instead, the real issue is that Sri Lankans are not gender-educated enough to ‘acknowledge’ the LGBTQ community at a personal level. There have been numberless incidents throughout the country where government officials and citizens have openly made homophobic remarks. And they have not been held accountable.
Nonetheless, the leading members of the LGBTQ+ community have welcomed the motive. They have pledged that they will o “whatever it takes” to get this bill approved.