The Sri Lankan government will not legalize gay marriages in Sri Lanka, said Economic Affairs Minister Basil Rajapaksa according to a report in colombogazette.com.
Speaking to newspaper editors in Colombo April 24, the minister said that there had been a request for marriage equality in the form of a condition to obtain aid by the British Government.
The Sri Lankan government is not prepared to entertain that request, he said.
Same-sex relations is illegal and punishable with jail time in Sri Lanka, just as it is throughout the Indian subcontinent, which was part of the former British Empire and had the similar anti-gay law.
Sri Lanka, along with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar have retained the British colonial era law even after independence. In fact, same-sex relations is illegal in 41 out of the 53 Commonwealth countries.
During last year’s Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Sri Lanka, the country went out of its way to refuse visas to any lesbian or gay group and to even ban their own LGBT activists.
The gay and lesbian community in Sri Lanka has with little effect been demanding a repeal of the anti-gay law and to draw public attention to their rights.
According to a document by the Immigration Refugee Board of Canada, “homosexuality is illegal” and that under Section 365A of the country’s penal code, “homosexual acts are punishable by a jail term of up to ten years.”
In 1995, the law was amended to be “gender-neutral,” resulting in the “criminalization of both male and female homosexual activity.”
The document sited Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006 to say “human rights organizations reported that police harassed, extorted money or sexual favors from, and assaulted gay men in Colombo and other areas.”
Homophobia in Sri Lanka is said to be “rampant” and “homosexuals may face blackmail, may be forced to leave their homes, and may lose their jobs.” It also added that “stigma associated with homosexuality prevents many from living openly.”
Equal Ground Sri Lanka, a center for international human rights, has confirmed that “LGBT individuals in the country are subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention and to abuse and violence at the hands of the police.”