The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has ruled that the country of Sri Lanka has violated the rights of an LGBTQ+ activist by criminalizing same-sex relations between women.
The ruling came on March 23 in favor of Sri Lankan activist Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, the founder and Executive Director of EQUAL Ground, the country’s oldest LGBTQ+ rights organization (which was profiled by GO in 2021). Flamer-Caldera, who has faced harassment and discrimination as a result of her sexual orientation, alleged that in criminalizing sexual relations between women, Sri Lanka had violated her human rights.
In question was section 365A of Sri Lanka’s Penal Code, which had been amended in 1995 to criminalize same-sex relations between both women and men. Previously, the code, in effect since 1883, had applied only to men.
The Committee ruled in favor of Flamer-Caldera, finding that Sri Lanka “has subjected the author to direct and indirect discrimination emanating from the Penal Code of 1883 as amended,” according to the decision. The Committee also noted that it was “concerned that the Code has not been repealed despite previous expressions of concern about its discriminatory effect on women.”
The Committee has given Sri Lanka six months to respond to the ruling, and to provide a written statement highlighting changes made in light of the Committee’s recommendations.
“I was only dreaming of this outcome,” Flamer-Caldera tells GO in an email statement. “When it actually materialized I was gobsmacked, ecstatic, blown away! And to think this ruling will (hopefully) positively affect lesbians worldwide – that is such an overwhelming feeling! It’s hard to describe!”