Sri Lanka's LGBTQ+ community holds Pride events demanding an end to discrimination

Rainbow Kite Festival held in Colombo by LGBTQI community. Screenshot from YouTube video by Newsfirst Sri Lanka. Fair use.

The Rainbow Kite Festival was held in Colombo by the LGBTQ+ community on June 24, 2023. Screenshot from YouTube video by Newsfirst Sri Lanka. Fair use.

The first LGBTQ+ Pride event was held in Sri Lanka privately in 2005 and attended by around 300 people. Over the past decade, Sri Lanka has witnessed a growing movement for LGBTQ+ rights. The community supported by the non-profit organisation Equal Ground started to hold public Pride events in annual intervals and they received good responses despite some resistance. In last year's event, certain streets of the capital Colombo were painted in vibrant rainbow colours for the first time.

This year also there were a series of vibrant and empowering Pride events spearheaded by Equal Ground and various other LGBTQ+ organisations advocating for equality and demanding an end to discrimination. This is significant as homosexuality is still considered a criminal offence under Sri Lanka's British colonial era-laws. However, in August 2022, a bill was submitted to the parliament with the objective of decriminalising homosexuality and safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ+ communities. This proposed amendment to the penal code will likely be passed in 2023, marking a significant step forward in LGBTQ+ rights in Sri Lanka.

The first event of the month was the 2023 Freedom Pride Parade which took place on Sunday June 4, from Viharamahadevi Park in Colombo. The participants held rainbow flags and placards calling for an end to the police harassment of LGBTQ+ people, and for their equal treatment. They also called for a ban of conversion therapies, which are interventions of various kinds, from harmful medication and psychological conditioning to prayer.

Journalist Ranga Sirilal tweeted:

Academic Pasan Jayasinghe notes in a Twitter thread about the Freedom Pride Parade that there was a fear among the activists that they might be attacked by right-wing supporters:

Jayasinghe also noted that the parade was a chance for the community to be together and celebrate.

On Saturday, June 10, another Pride parade was held in the northern city of Jaffna.

Journalist Lakna Amandi shared the news about Colombo Pride Art & Photo Exhibition held from June 13 to 15.

On June 18, Equal-Ground organised the Colombo Pride Walk and Food Festival 2023 which was also attended by the general public and some diplomats along with the LGBTQ+ community.

On June 22, the Young Activists Collective staged a tri-lingual episode play titled “Closet Cases” as part of the month-long celebrations. Check out the Colombo Pride Facebook page for the Abhimani Queer Film Festival and other events being organised to celebrate Pride month.

Founded in 2004 by Sri Lankan gay rights activist Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Equal Ground has dedicated over 15 years to conducting groundwork in 50 cities across Sri Lanka. Their efforts have aimed to sensitise and educate people, fostering better understanding and acceptance of the Queer community. In an interview with Give Out, Flamer-Caldera pondered on the upcoming decriminalisation law, stating, “It’s going to take a lot more sensitising and education, but at least now we will have the law on our side.” She also notes that the challenge lies in transforming people's mindsets and existing systems, because “it’s not about the law, it’s about people’s perceptions.”

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