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Embracing Pride Month: Do Sri Lankans still get the idea?

By: Editor (LGBTIQ)

June 02, Colombo (LNW): Pride month, or notably the month filled with rainbowish glamour all over the world has just arrived. Pride Month holds profound significance for the global LGBTQIA+ community, serving as a commemoration of the ongoing struggle for equality, recognition, and acceptance.

But do Sri Lankans really get the idea of what it means to be celebrating Pride?

In Sri Lanka, where cultural and societal attitudes towards non-normative sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics often pose challenges, Pride Month takes on added importance.

Despite facing legal restrictions and social stigmatisation, the celebration of Pride offers a vital opportunity for Sri Lanka’s queer community to affirm their identities, advocate for their rights, and foster solidarity.

Sri Lanka still clings on to the colonial relics evident in her Penal Code, in which sections 365 and 365A are perceived to be a prison sentence for queer people. In addition, the Vagrants Ordinance of Sri Lanka provides sections such as 2, 7 and 9, constituting the persecution of people of non-normative identities.

The Penal Code of Sri Lanka continues to be wielded as a tool of oppression against LGBTQIA+ individuals, perpetuating discrimination and injustice within the legal system.

Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code criminalise “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and “gross indecency“, and LGBTQIA+ individuals face the constant threat of legal persecution and harassment, despite such provisions failing to provide a definition for such terms.

These vague and archaic provisions are often used to justify arbitrary arrests, police raids, and extortion attempts targeting queer individuals, particularly transgender people and men who have sex with men.

Moreover, the broad language of the Penal Code allows for the arbitrary interpretation of what constitutes “unnatural acts“, leaving LGBTQIA+ individuals vulnerable to arbitrary arrests and discriminatory treatment by law enforcement authorities.

This legal ambiguity fosters an environment of fear and intimidation, forcing many queer individuals to conceal their identities and live in the shadows to avoid persecution.

The discriminatory application of the Penal Code not only violates the fundamental rights and freedoms of LGBTQIA+ individuals but also perpetuates harmful stereotypes and stigma surrounding non-normative sexual orientations and gender identities.

It reinforces social prejudices and inhibits progress towards greater acceptance and inclusion of queer communities in Sri Lankan society.

Pride Month serves as a beacon of visibility and representation for Sri Lanka’s queer community. In a society where LGBTQIA+ individuals often face invisibility and erasure, Pride events provide a platform for showcasing diverse identities and experiences.

By openly celebrating Pride, individuals assert their right to exist authentically and challenge the prevailing norms of silence and shame surrounding non-heteronormative orientations and gender expressions.

Visibility not only empowers queer individuals but also educates the broader society, dispelling myths, stereotypes, and misconceptions about LGBTQIA+ lives.

Pride Month serves as a catalyst for advocacy and awareness-raising on LGBTQIA+ rights and issues in Sri Lanka. Despite progressive strides in recent years, including a bill proposing the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relations between adults being well-prepped into meeting parliamentary scrutiny soon, and a landmark Supreme Court determination validating the bill’s importance, legal protections and societal acceptance remain limited for the queer community.

Pride events offer a platform for raising awareness about the ongoing struggles, discrimination, and violence faced by queer citizens in Sri Lanka. Through rallies, workshops, and discussions, activists amplify their voices, advocate for legal reforms, and demand equal rights and protections under the law.

Pride Month fosters community building and solidarity among Sri Lanka’s queer population. In a context where social networks and support systems for LGBTQIA+ individuals may be scarce, Pride events provide spaces for forging connections, building friendships, and finding belonging.

Whether through vibrant parades, cultural performances, or support group meetings, Pride celebrations create a sense of community resilience and empowerment.

These gatherings offer opportunities for sharing experiences, offering mutual support, and affirming each other’s identities in a society that often marginalises queer voices.

Pride Month also encourages intersectional activism and inclusivity within Sri Lanka’s queer community. Recognising that identities are multifaceted and intersect with other forms of oppression, such as class, ethnicity, religion, and disability, Pride events strive to be inclusive and intersectional.

By amplifying the voices of marginalised queer individuals, including transgender persons, people of diverse nationalities, people who are differently-abled, and those living in rural areas, Pride celebrations aim to create spaces where all identities are affirmed and valued.

Embracing diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community strengthens solidarity and ensures that no one is left behind in the fight for equality and justice.

Pride Month celebrates the rich cultural and artistic expressions of Sri Lanka’s queer community. Whilst indigenous queer identities such as ‘Nachchi‘ originated in Sri Lanka in the late 18th century with the influence of India’s acceptance for non-cultural gender identities continue to exist, from literature and music to visual arts and performance, LGBTQIA+ artists and creatives contribute to the vibrant tapestry of the island’s cultural landscape.

Pride events showcase the talents and creativity of queer individuals, providing platforms for artistic expression, storytelling, and self-representation. Through art, queer Sri Lankans reclaim narratives, challenge norms, and envision inclusive futures where all identities are celebrated and respected.

As Pride Month unfolds across the globe, it is essential to recognise its significance for Sri Lanka’s queer community.

In a country where LGBTQIA+ rights are still evolving, Pride celebrations offer moments of visibility, advocacy, community building, and cultural expression. By embracing Pride Month, Sri Lankan queer individuals affirm their identities, assert their rights, and demand recognition and acceptance in a society that too often marginalises their voices.

Pride Month traces its roots to the Stonewall Riots of June 1969, a pivotal moment in LGBTQIA+ history. In New York City, patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar, resisted police harassment, igniting days of protests and sparking the modern queer rights movement. From this uprising emerged a call for equality, visibility, and pride in one’s identity. Today, Pride Month commemorates the bravery of those who stood up against oppression, celebrates queer identities, and advocates for justice and inclusion worldwide.

In conclusion, Pride month is not just a month canvassing the globe with a rainbow veil, as it indeed holds a deeper meaning to it.

Let us stand in solidarity with Sri Lanka’s LGBTQIA+ community and support their ongoing struggle for equality, dignity, and inclusion.

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