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Sri Lanka rejects moves to decriminalise homosexuality

Sri Lanka rejects moves to decriminalise homosexuality

Sri Lankan Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne.

Sri Lanka has quashed moves to remove discrimination based on sexual orientation because it was afraid it would promote homosexuality.

At a cabinet meeting last week government ministers rejected a provision in the proposed National Human Rights Action Plan to remove discrimination based on sexual orientation.

‘There was a provision referring to the sexual orientation of individuals and we clearly said it was not acceptable,’ said Health Minister and government spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne.

‘The government is against homosexuality, but we will not prosecute anyone for practising it.’

Senaratne also said the country’s conservative Buddhist clergy opposed the provision and any changes to the law could create ‘social problems’.

According to reports ministers protested the proposed provision saying it was a ‘surreptitious attempt to recognise homosexuality’.

Article 365 of the Sri Lankan 1883 Penal Code states ‘whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with the imprisonment’.

The law also prohibits ‘gross indecency’ and a person could face up to ten years in prison and a fine for breaking the law.

A campaign by gay rights activists in 1995 to decriminalise homosexuality resulted in an amendment to the law to also include women.

Activists have argued the law is not clear on what constitutes gross indecency and is used to specifically target people same-sex attracted people.

While there are very few arrests based on this law and even fewer convictions, activists say they do result in bribery, blackmail, extortion, violence, or coerced sexual favours.