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Homosexuality to be decriminalised

Homosexuality to be decriminalised

10 Feb 2023 | By Mirudhula Thambiah

  • Response to int’l community urging SL to repeal Sections 365, 365A
  • Same-sex marriages not permitted
  • MP Premnath Dolawatte says AG vetting his Bill for constitutionality     

Responding to the UK, the US, Canada, and Norway urging Sri Lanka to decriminalise same-sex relationships by repealing Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code, Minister of Foreign Affairs, President’s Counsel (PC) M.U.M. Ali Sabry stated yesterday (9) that while the Government would decriminalise the same, same-sex marriages would not be legalised. 

Speaking to The Daily Morning, Ali Sabry said: “There is a Private Member Bill initiated by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Government MP and Attorney Premnath C. Dolawatte. The Government will support its position of decriminalising same-sex relationships. We are, however, not legalising same-sex marriages. But, we would decriminalise it. I think that there is a lot of consensus for that, so let that come to Parliament.”

When queried as to whether Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code would be repealed, Ali Sabry said: “Yes. That’s correct. Decriminalising it would be added.”

Last year (2022), a Bill to amend the Penal Code with the aim of protecting the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning (LGBTIQ) communities in Sri Lanka was handed over to President Ranil Wickremesinghe by Dolawatte.

Dolawatte told The Daily Morning yesterday that the draft Bill to amend Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code by decriminalising the offences had been referred to the Attorney General’s (AG) Department to clarify consistency with the Constitution. 

During the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Working Group during its 42nd session held in Geneva, Switzerland, recently, the UK, the US, Canada and Norway had urged for the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships. The US called on Sri Lanka to respect the rights of LGBTIQ persons and for steps to be taken to stop the discrimination and harassment of the said community.

Section 365 of the Penal Code defines “unnatural offences” as being “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal”. An explanation is provided in that “Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence”. This is an offence which, if involving adults (in this case over 18 years), upon a guilty conviction, carries a penalty of a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine.

Section 365A states: “Any person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures, or attempts to procure, the commission, by any person, or any act of gross indecency, with another person, shall be guilty of an offence.” The punishment upon conviction for the offence between adults is to be sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of two years and/or a fine.

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