Equite Sri Lanka champions campaign against forced marriages in LGBT community

Thursday, 22 April 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Recognising the severe pressure faced by the LGBTQ+ community, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others, Equite Sri Lanka, in collaboration with Men Engage Alliance, has launched a community awareness campaign on forced marriages.

Equite Sri Lanka is a non-governmental organisation working for the LGBTIQ community, women and youth in marginalised settings with an aim to achieve equality for all. Men Engage Alliance is a regional alliance which works to prevent gender-based violence through promoting gender equity.

Equite Sri Lanka’s recent campaign seeks to emphasise the urgency and need to provide vital legal provisions to address the issue of forced marriages and also to protect the rights of people of different genders living in the country.

Commenting on the issue, Equite Sri Lanka Co-Founder Adhil Suraj said, “The problem of underage and forced marriages is common even in the Muslim marriage law, as well as in homosexual and heterosexual communities. We have taken a number of urgent steps for both these issues in order to create awareness among the government and the general public. Our goal is to create a just society that is not discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, gender or orientation.”

He further noted that the LGBTIQ + community are also under severe pressure due to the prevailing cultural and customary practices in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, the institution of marriage is placed on a pedestal and regarded as a social norm. However, due to ignorance and the need to follow traditions, individuals’ despite being identified as homosexual or transgender are forced in to marriages by parents and elders resulting in disastrous consequences.

While Articles 365, 365A, 399 of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka define homosexuality and transgender sex as a criminal act, various case studies have shown that for homosexuals, forced into marital partnerships, these are more likely to fail resulting in higher rates of divorce. 

“We are pleased to note that Minister of Justice Ali Sabry has stated that ‘one country, one law’ should be established in Sri Lanka where the Muslim marriage law should be amended to prevent the marriage of underage children. We also believe there should legal amendments to ensure that the LGBTIQ + community are protected against forced marriages,” Suraj explained.

Equite Sri Lanka and Men Engage Alliance have joined forces to draw the attention of Parliamentarians and social activists towards this dire issue and to create public awareness via social media platforms.

Another phase of the program is to raise awareness and sensitise divorce lawyers, counselling services, responsible Government stakeholders, members of parliamentary committees, youth groups, family and friends on the mental health issues, sexual and reproductive health problems caused as a result of forced marriages.