Gays Hopeful Law Will Be Changed
South China Morning Post,
October 15, 1998
By Susannah Price
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA Gay rights activists say they are optimistic
laws making homosexuality a criminal offence punishable by a prison term will soon be
The group, Companions on a Journey, set up three years ago, is campaigning for the
repeal of Section 365 of the penal code, brought in by the British more than a century
"We are confident this section outlawing homosexuality will be scrapped very
soon," said the director and founder of the group, Sherman de Rose.
No one can remember the last time anyone was prosecuted under the law - a fact the
Government has used to argue there are more important issues than repealing legislation
that has fallen into disuse.
However, Mr. de Rose says there is widespread discrimination against gays in Sri Lanka.
He has been assaulted and the organisations Colombo centre has received
threatening telephone calls.
There are no bars or clubs where the gay community can meet freely and some resort to
beaches, railway stations or toilets to pick up partners.
The organisation is planning to lobby MPs, religious leaders and other figures in
"At present police use the law to blackmail homosexuals - ironically enough they
often try to force them to have sex," said Rohan Edirisinghe, a lawyer involved in
"We are just trying to decriminalise homosexuality, we are not asking for a
chapter on gay rights."
Last time the Government tried to decriminalise gay rights it was blocked by a Muslim
and a Catholic MP. It was then noticed that the law only applied to men - and so was
extended to include women.
Companions on a Journey, which is funded by the Dutch Government, has only 550 members
at present but has branches round the island. It is actively involved in other aspects of
gay life and is working to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, which has so far killed
more than 60 people.
There are only three clinics for HIV testing, none of which is thought to be
[Home] [World] [Sri Lanka]