Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court Paves the Way for Homosexuality Decriminalization

LGBTQ+ rights activists in Sri Lanka have been campaigning for years to change the law in a country where homosexuality is still punishable by a prison sentence and a fine. The speaker of parliament announced on Tuesday that the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka had approved a bill that sought to decriminalize homosexuality. Campaigners praised the decision as a “historic development”.

In Sri Lanka, where homosexuality is still punishable by a prison sentence and a fine, LGBTQ+ rights advocates have been fighting for years to reform the legislation. As a result, a private member’s bill was recently introduced in parliament.

Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said the Supreme Court decided it was not illegal after hearing more than a dozen petitions on both sides of the issue. “The Supreme Court is of the opinion that the bill as a whole or as any provision thereof is not inconsistent with the constitution,” the speaker told parliament.

The judgement, which validated many of the petitions in favor of the bill, is considered a “historic development that has created hope towards real change,” according to Kaveesha Coswatte, an attorney at law and advocacy officer for iProbono in Sri Lanka.

To advance the proposed legislation through parliament, activists will still need to sway the support of the 225 lawmakers.

The next steps for the bill to finally become legislation are not yet apparent because neither the government nor the opposition has stated whether they accept the proposal for consideration made by a single member of parliament.

“But the door is finally open. This Supreme Court decision is major for the community in terms of any kind of progress they have seen over the last couple of years,” Coswatte added.