brand logo
HRCSL urges repeal of penal code sections criminalizing same-sex relations

HRCSL urges repeal of penal code sections criminalizing same-sex relations

23 Nov 2023 | BY Lahiru Doloswala

The Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), L.T.B Dehideniya, has penned a crucial letter to Minister of Justice Wijayadasa Rajapakshe, advocating for the repeal or amendment of Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code.

The letter, issued under the authority of Section 10(d) of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act, highlights the Commission's role in recommending measures aligning national laws with international human rights norms.

The targeted sections of the Penal Code, addressing 'unnatural offences' and 'acts of gross indecency between persons,' have been employed to criminalize consensual sexual activity between individuals of the same sex.

Notably, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka recently emphasised the necessity of decriminalising such activity, asserting that it upholds human dignity and aligns with constitutional principles.

The Supreme Court's determination, as cited in the letter, underscores the outdated moral imperatives of a bygone era and emphasises the need to conform to constitutional provisions safeguarding human dignity.

Previously, in the case of Sanath Wimalasiri v. The Attorney General, the Supreme Court held that consensual same-sex activity should not result in custodial sentences.

Sri Lanka's commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is also emphasised, with the Human Rights Committee affirming that non-discrimination includes protection based on sexual orientation.

The Committee's Concluding Observations in April 2023 declared that the continued criminalization of same-sex activity under Sections 365 and 365A violates ICCPR articles, calling for the repeal of these sections.

The letter further points out that Sri Lanka's obligations under the ICCPR were reiterated during its Third Universal Periodic Review in 2017, where the Commission recommended against criminalizing consensual adult relationships.

Sri Lanka, voluntarily pledging to respect fundamental rights, including those of the LGBTIQ community, is urged to fulfill this commitment by amending the Penal Code.

The letter concludes by shedding light on a Private Member's Bill introduced in April 2023, which seeks to amend Section 365 and repeal Section 365A of the Penal Code.

The HRCSL recommends the Ministry's support for this bill, encouraging its swift passage to align national legislation with international human rights standards.

More News..