Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court has determined that a private member’s bill seeking the decriminalisation of homosexuality is not inconsistent with the constitution, Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said.
“The Supreme Court is of the opinion that the bill as a whole or as any provision thereof is not inconsistent with the constitution,” the Speaker announced Tuesday May 09 morning.
The apex court’s determination was issued following a petition filed challenging the bill.
LGBTQ+ rights activists in Sri Lanka have for years been calling for amendments to Sections 365 and 365A of the country’s Penal Code that prohibit “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and “gross indecency between persons”. Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have said this legislation has been “commonly understood in Sri Lanka to criminalise same-sex relations between consenting adults, including in private spaces.”
Human Rights Watch has documented that other laws, including a vaguely worded Vagrancy Law and a penal code provision banning “cheating by personation,” are also used to target transgender and gender non-conforming people for arrest.
“Police have carried out many such arrests with violence. Among the 61 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people interviewed for a 2016 Human Rights Watch report, 16 had experienced physical or sexual assault, including rape, by the police,” an HRW report published in October 2020 said.