Court of Appeal allows Equal Ground, others to serve notice to Police, Ama Dissanayake over homophobic training

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Court of Appeal has granted permission to serve notice to Inspector General of Police C.D. Wickramaratne, Deputy Inspector General of Police of the Kandy range Chandana Alahakoon, and purported counsellor and trainer Ama Dissanayake, who conducted a training program for police officers of Kandy and Matale at the Kandy Police Auditorium, for allegedly violating the rights of and discriminating against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTIQ) community in Sri Lanka. 

The petition was heard by a two-judge-bench comprising of Justice Sobhitha Rajakaruna and Justice Dhammika Ganepola. 

Equal Ground, Sri Lanka’s oldest organisation advocating for LGBTIQ rights, with others, has filed a petition in the Court of Appeal seeking a mandate in the nature of a Writ of Prohibition against the above-mentioned respondents for conducting a training program for the Police where malicious, erroneous, and discriminatory remarks were made about the LGBTIQ community. 

At the training program held in July 2021, Dissanayake claimed that homosexuals in Sri Lanka were preying on others, especially the youth, trying to make them a part of the LGBTIQ community. She asserted that being LGBTIQ was unnatural and that it went against biological and social norms on the basis that such relationships did not lead to reproduction. She then asked the participants to vocalise, loudly, that they too were against such relationships.

The Petitioners seek a Writ of Prohibition preventing Sri Lanka Police from conducting trainings, lectures, seminars, etc., that marginalise and violate the fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people in Sri Lanka. The permitting and sanctioning of vilification, dehumanisation, and condemnation of persons with different sexual orientations and gender identities/expression by law enforcement does not adhere to basic human rights standards and is in violation of Article 12 of the Constitution.

This is the first time in Sri Lanka that a case of this nature has been filed, where law enforcement has been challenged by an organisation over alleged discrimination against the LGBTIQ population in the country. 

Equal Ground’s research on Mapping LGBTIQ Identities in Sri Lanka (2021) shows that 12% of the adult population (18-65 years), or 1,469,574 people in Sri Lanka, identify as LGBTIQ. Meanwhile, there is documented evidence of the Sri Lankan Police’s homophobic and transphobic practices. In this context, conducting such trainings only serve to exacerbate the discrimination and violence faced by the LGBTIQ community due to archaic, colonial laws still present in the Sri Lankan Penal Code.

The Sri Lanka College of Psychiatrists (SLCP) responded to Equal Ground’s letter on Dissanayake’s remarks at the training, condemning the erroneous statement that homosexuality was mental/physical disease/disorder or an abnormality. “Modern day psychiatrists do not identify or diagnose homosexuality as a mental illness or treat it as such. This myth that homosexuality is a mental illness is not in keeping with the evidence-based science practiced by our membership,” it said.  The SLCP strongly urged the authorities to abolish the archaic laws that criminalise same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults. 

President’s Counsel Sanjeewa Jayawardena appeared for the petitioners.