The government of Sri Lanka on Thursday said it supports a bill that would decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country.
“There is a private member bill initiated by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Government MP and attorney Premnath C. Dolawatte,” Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry told the Daily Morning, a Sri Lankan newspaper. “The government will support its position of decriminalizing same-sex relationships. We are, however, not legalizing same-sex marriages. But, we would decriminalize it. I think that there is a lot of consensus for that, so let that come to Parliament.”
Sections 365 and 365A of the Sri Lankan penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.
The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women last March published a decision that found the criminalization laws violated the rights of Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, executive director of Equal Ground, a Sri Lankan LGBTQ and intersex rights group.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe during a meeting with U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power that took place last September said his government will not oppose Dolawatte’s bill. The Daily Morning reported the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Norway have urged the government to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.
Sri Lanka is a former British colony.
“We are very optimistic, but cautiously so,” Flamer-Caldera told the Washington Blade on Friday. “It’s been more than 19 years that our organization has been advocating for decriminalization and it’s good to see the work bearing fruit, finally. But it’s still a long road ahead.”
Neighboring India is among the former British colonies that have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in recent years.