Last edited: July 16, 2004

Sri Lankan Gays Eye Canada Newscenter in Ottawa, May 28, 2001

By Ben Thompson

Ottawa — Hundreds of gay Sri Lankans have applied to immigrate to Canada. In a country that discriminates against gays and lesbians, and is devastated by civil war, Canada is a land of tranquility, acceptance, and success.

Many of those who have applied for immigrant status are applying as refugees, citing homophobia at home. A spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration said each case is examined on its own merits.

Sri Lankan gay activists have been unable to get the government to decriminalize homosexuality.

The head of Companions on a Journey, Sherman de Rose, said they had overcome many social barriers and faced even physical assault while campaigning for the rights of sexual minorities in Sri Lanka.

However, even after five years of back-door manoeuvring and lobbying parliamentarians, they have failed to have a 1883 law repealed that makes sex between consenting males a criminal offence punishable by 12 years in jail.

The penal code outlawed homosexuality and the Victorian laws introduced by British colonial rulers did not acknowledge that women could have sex with each other and therefore lesbians could not be prosecuted.

In 1995 agreed to review the law. But instead of decriminalizing homosexuality, the authorities expanded the scope of the law to include women.

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