Campaigns for decriminalisation of homosexuality by the LGBTQ+ activist groups have been going on in Sri Lanka for decades. The recent judgement by the country’s Supreme Court gives much needed push for sexual rights to the LGBTQ+ community of the country.
A bill which was brought in the Sri Lanka’s assembly to decriminalise homosexuality was contested before the country’s Supreme Court to declare it as ‘inconsistent’ with the constitution of the country.
The Supreme Court, however, in its judgement declared that neither the bill nor any provisions mentioned in the bill is ‘inconsistent’ to any part of the Sri Lankan constitution.
This judgement of the Supreme Court was also announced by the Parliamentary Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.
The case in contention was brought before the country’s Supreme Court after a private member bill was brought by a ruling party legislator in the parliament to decriminalise homosexuality by amending Sri Lanka’s penal provisions related to it and was therefore, challenged before the honourable court.
The bill which was gazetted in March, explicitly mentions that sexual orientation of any individual should no longer be a punishable offence and any sexual act or conduct, either in public or private, between two consenting adults of same sex should no longer be an offence under Sri Lankan penal code.
The bill was contested by three people who are Rajpaksa’s loyalists to dim the light of hope that the queer community experienced after the private member bill was brought in the parliament. The sheer perseverance and undaunting patience has been shown by the queer community to ascertain their rights for decades in the country.
Reference to India’s judgement by the Sri Lankan Apex Court
In its ruling in the current case, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court cited the landmark 2018 judgement of India’s Supreme Court. The famous case of Navtej Singh Johar v Union Of India led to decriminalisation of the Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, which criminalised any sexual conduct between two individuals of same sex.
The Sri Lankan Supreme Court while giving its judgement in the present case referred to the judgement given by Justice DY Chandrachud in the Navtej Singh Johar case, which was stated as “Gays and lesbians, transgenders and bisexuals continue to be denied a truly equal citizenship seven decades after Independence. The law has imposed upon them a morality which is an anachronism. Their entitlement should be as equal participants in a society governed by the morality of the Constitution.”
The Sri Lankan court also referred to former Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra’s ruling which asserted that the sexual autonomy to choose one’s partner is an important pillar and an inseparable part of any individual liberty.
Fate of the progressive bill lies in the hands of Parliament
After getting an evidently big nod from the Supreme Court, the test for the bill’s fate rests with the Parliament.
The Supreme Court judgement has given some hope to the country’s queer community which could only be transformed into a reality after the 255 MPs of the Parliament could count themselves on the right side of history by giving their assent to the much-needed bill.