Sri Lankan police on Tuesday (2 April) arrested a novelist for writing about homosexuality in the Buddhist clergy.
Shakthika Sathkumara, 33, was arrested in the north-central town of Polgahawela, according to the New Indian Express.
He was charged for inciting religious hatred under the United Nation’s international human rights treaty, to which Sri Lanka is a signatory.
Police then remanded him in custody for nine days.
Sathkumara had posted a short story to his Facebook which included references to homosexual behavior among Buddhist monks.
A group of monks — who hold considerable power in the Buddhist-majority nation — went to the police. They said the story insulted Buddhism.
What’s more, Sri Lanka forbids gay sex under an 1883 colonial-era law introduced by the British. It is a similar law to Section 377 in India, which the country’s Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional last year.
According to the New Indian Express, local activists also decried the attack on free speech.
‘The police have abused their powers and carried out an arbitrary arrest,’ the Free Media Movement said in a statement.
‘We condemn this action of the police.’
One of Sri Lanka’s top legal authorities in 2017 vowed to make changes to improve the rights of LGBTI people in the country.
Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle said the country wanted to reform its penal code to ensure that it meets international human rights standards.
He also said the government would make LGBTI anti-discrimination laws.
LGBTI activists welcomed the comments.
Leading LGBTI group Equal Ground said no one should be targeted by law because of who they are or who they love.
‘Whether LGBTIQ or not, we are all entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights. We look forward to the government fulfilling on this commitment’, executive director, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, said.
Hollyoaks actor Jimmy Essex caused a stir last year on a visit to Sri Lanka. He posted an engagement photo of him and his boyfriend.
Some people argued he should have known the legal status of LGBTI people in the country.