Sri Lanka's recently passed Emergency Regulations, are giving police and military officers unprecedented powers to arrest and detain LGBT+ people, right activists said.
Regulation No. 2289/07 made under the Public Security Ordinance by President Ranil Wickremasinghe was passed by an overwhelming majority in Parliament.
Politicians representing the ruling SLPP, Ceylon Workers Congress and other parties supporting President Wickremasinghe, voted for the Regulations.
Homes of LGBT+ people could be raided without warrants
Section 11 of the Regulations allow any police officer or member of the armed forces to search and detain, without a warrant, any person who is committing or has committed or is suspected of committing an offence under sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code.
Both Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code have been used to harass, persecute and criminalise the lives of LGBT+ people. The offences criminalise “intercourse against the order of nature between man, woman and animal” and “gross indecency between any persons”.
Both offences are extremely vague and can be committed in public or private. Their vagueness has been used as a tool to persecute LGBT+ people, including subjecting them to torture and prosecution.
Ali Sabry and Jeevan Thondaman both vote to imprison LGBT+ people for life despite voicing support for their rights.
In 2020, media exposed how police officers were arresting LGBT+ people for merely gathering to eat dinner and subjecting them to forced anal and vaginal examinations. Former Justice Minister, Ali Sabry, spoke out against the practice and said he was committed to ending all forms of discrimination against LGBT+ people. However, he voted himself for the Regulations.
Recently, CWC General Secretary and MP Jeevan Thondaman submitted constitutional reforms to strengthen the rights of LGBT+ people, but also voted for the Regulations that will end up throwing LGBT+ people in jail for life.
Sri Lanka is now worse than Saudi Arabia and Nigeria
Section 12 (e) of the Regulations also impose life imprisonment for any person found guilty of committing an offence under section 365 and 365A of the Penal Code. This punishment risks subjecting Sri Lanka's LGBT+ to a punishment more severe than that imposed in Saudi Arabia or Nigeria.
The punishments and continued persecution of LGBT+ are in complete contravention of Sri Lanka's Constitutional guarantees and international commitments especially under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). These violations risk further damaging Sri Lanka's reputation and access to key export markets through GSP+.
Attorney General has warned against use of the law to target LGBT+ people
The arrests, detentions and persecutions of LGBT+ people continued in Sri Lanka despite several statements by the Attorney General that discrimination against LGBT+ people is unconstitutional and that sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code cannot be used against LGBT+ people.
Wattala Magistrate dismisses Police attempt to persecute a lesbian woman
Recently, the Wattala Magistrate's Court dismissed a case filed by the Welisara Mahabage Police against a lesbian woman. The police were attempting to subject the woman to a psychiatric evaluation arguing that homosexuality was a mental illness and that she was a danger to children.
The Court rejected the police argument and accepted the argument of the accused's lawyers that homosexuality was neither a mental illness nor an offence.
Liberal Youth Movement files FR
The Liberal Youth Movement has filed a fundamental rights petition against the Emergency Regulations. In their petition, they added that certain provisions in the Regulations have no rationale or nexus to national security. This includes Sections 11 and 12 of the Regulations that target consensual romantic and sexual relationships in private.
LGBT+ rights activists express grave concern
LGBT+ rights activists have expressed their extreme disappointment, hurt and fear of the outcome of the new regulations.
They have also demanded to know how, what two consenting adults are doing in the privacy of their own home or bedroom, has become a national security crisis in the eyes of their President and Parliament.