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IGP apologises to LGBTQ community for past harassment

IGP apologises to LGBTQ community for past harassment

13 Dec 2022 | BY Kiara Warnasuriya

  • Promises LGBTQ representatives to issue circular addressing harassment and rights violation
  • LGBTQ reps welcome move, Police top brass tasked with spearheading 

Following a meeting held on 9 December between representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) community, high-ranking officers of the Police, and representatives of the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs, and Social Empowerment to discuss solutions to the grievances faced by the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ representatives told The Morning that Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne had apologised for historic acts of violence committed by the Police against the said community, and assured the representatives of the issuance of a circular addressing harassment and the violation of the rights of the LGBTQ community.

iProbono Equality Director Attorney-At-Law (AAL) Aritha Wickramasinghe, who participated in the meeting as a legal representative of the LGBTQ community, told The Morning that it was a “very positive” and “unprecedented” meeting. 

“On the invitation of the Police and the Ministry for Women and Social Empowerment, they invited LGBTQ community members and representative organisations to discuss grievances and solutions. The IGP was present along with other Senior Deputy Inspector Generals of Police (SDIGs), and Police officers. They were very understanding and receptive of the issues faced by the LGBTQ community. We shared with them cases of Police torture and brutality towards the community.

“Something that really struck us was that the IGP apologised for this historic violence committed by the Police against the community. The Police top brass committed to addressing inequality against community, harassment, and violence, and instructed the Women and Children’s Desks of the Police to be assigned to LGBTQ issues for the moment. Under the leadership of the IGP, they will be preparing a circular with the assistance of the Attorney General to address the harassment and violation of the rights of LGBTQ people, especially by the Police. 

“We discussed how the community can work closer with the Police so that the Police are not seen as our enemy, but more of a partner to find solutions to the issues faced by the community. We brought up several cases where transgender people had been subject to anal and vaginal examinations, torture, whipping, humiliation, being charged with the offence of cheating by impersonation when being transgender is neither cheating nor impersonating, and also how some, who are arrested, are made to dance on tables naked in order to be released. The top brass was very apologetic, and they were appalled.”

National Transgender Network Sri Lanka Executive Director Bhoomi Harendran told The Morning that the meeting came as a pleasant surprise.

“The response was positive and really unexpected. It was impressive. We didn’t expect that kind of response to make sure that the LGBTQ voice is being heard, and that their rights are being protected. The feelings and opinions of the Police were impressive. I never thought that we would have such a progressive and open minded Police. We will not stop at this meeting. We will follow up on this and push them to do what they said they will do,” she said.

LGBTQ representatives from organisations such as Equal Ground, the Venasa Transgender Network, and the Young Out Here Sri Lanka participated in the said meeting, along with the Secretary to the Ministry of Women and Social Empowerment.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday (12), Police Media Spokesman, Senior Superintendent of Police and AAL Nihal Thalduwa said that many ideas were expressed regarding the difficulties faced by the LGBTQ community when dealing with the Police in their daily tasks. 

“The Police will be paying special attention to the transgender community. The DIG in charge of the ‘Prevention of Abuse of Children and Women’ has been instructed to take measures in this regard. Further, SDIGs have been assigned to act directly on behalf of the IGP. The DIG in charge of the Legal Division was given necessary instructions to extend the support required,” he claimed.

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