LGBT rights in Sri Lanka

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LGBT rights in Sri Lanka Sri Lanka
Same-sex sexual activity legal?


Article 365A
Gender identity/expression
Discrimination protections Yes (As of January 2017)
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples

LGBT people living in Sri Lanka may face unique legal and social challenges. Homosexuality is illegal, and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for any of the protection given to married couples. Members of the LGBT community in Sri Lanka have reported being subjected to harassment. In January 2017, cabinet members of the Sri Lankan government rejected the chance to legalize homosexuality, however they agreed to update their Human Rights Action Plan with an addendum that bans discrimination against someone based on his or her sexual orientation. Although this does not remove the ban on homosexuality in Sri Lanka, it is considered a step in the right direction.[1]

Criminal law[edit]

Article 365A prohibits anyone, irrespective of gender, from engaging in "gross indecency", which is not explicitly defined, although stiffer sanctions apply if one person is under the age of 16 or if any sort of injury was caused as a result. In 1995, the criminal law was amended to expressly prohibit "gross indecency" no matter the gender of the participants.[2]

Psychological help/treatment[edit]

Some private clinics in Sri Lanka claim to be able to "cure" patients of their homosexuality, although the World Health Organization does not view homosexuality, in itself, to be a mental illness. Groups such as "Companions On A Journey" and "Equal Ground" are countering these claims with more accurate medical information.

Family and marriage[edit]

Sri Lanka family law does not recognize same-sex marriages or any similar sames-sex civil union. LGBT people who have come out to their family often report being verbally or physically harassed.[3]

Transgender issues[edit]

While there are some traditional transgender practices associated with certain rituals, transgender people are victims of harassment and discrimination.[4] The term ponnaya (පොන්නයා) is a defamatory term often used against transgender people or effeminate men.

Media and popular entertainment[edit]

  • තනි තටුවෙන් පියාඹන්න Flying with One Wing (2002) – Asoka Handagama wrote and directed this film about a Sri Lankan woman who passes for a man in the society and in her personal relationships.[2]


While AIDS-HIV is not only a public health problem for LGBT people, the AIDS-HIV pandemic has helped to open up a more public debate about gender roles and human sexuality in Sri Lanka.[5] The high levels of poverty, combined with the stigma associated with the disease and conservative cultural mores, has made it difficult to implement comprehensive prevention programs and to offer life-saving treatment to those people already infected.

Initially, during the late 1980s – 1990s, the Sri Lanka government tended to ignore the pandemic. This may have been because of the political instability in the government during the civil war, or because of the taboo nature of the pandemic scaring off government officials. It was not until the early part of the twenty-first century that a national AIDS-HIV policy was developed in Sri Lanka.

Today, a National AIDS Council has been established, the government formally recognizes the United Nations World AIDS Day, more public education about the disease is available and efforts are being made to combat the prejudice people living with AIDS-HIV face in the workplace.[5]

Colombo PRIDE[edit]

Colombo PRIDE has been held in the capital of Sri Lanka for the past 12 years, and is primarily hosted by Equal Ground. PRIDE in Sri Lanka is currently on a small scale due to the current political climate coupled with the oppressive laws against LGBTQ persons. PRIDE celebrations take place as a private, yet also very public event attended by people from all over Sri Lanka. PRIDE festivel in Sri Lanka has grown each year, and a diverse range of events are held to encourage the queer community to come out. It is also considered an educational and sensitizing event where the message of diversity is addressed in a holistic way paving for better understanding and acceptance of the queer community by the larger Sri Lankan population. Events usually include workshops, dramas/shows/musicals, film festivals, art & photo exhibitions, parties, and the kite festival.[6]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 2017)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2017)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2017)
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Sodomy Laws, Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  3. ^ "Sri Lanka's gays share their journey". BBC. 20 May 2005. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  4. ^ "Gender Diversity and Transgender Issues". Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  5. ^ a b "HIV/AIDS" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  6. ^

External links[edit]