A major smear campaign is under way in Sri Lanka against LGBTI advocacy group Equal Ground and its officers, and the rainbow community in general
Local press and radio have been fanning the flames, running continuous stories about a crack down on a gay prostitution ring using under age boys and a Buddhist monk accused of having sex with under age youth.
Meanwhile the Criminal Investigation Department and Districts Secretariats have told field workers they cannot talk about homosexuality, human rights or the law during their workshops, under any circumstances, even when working on HIV/AIDS.
So-called Unnatural Offences and Gross Indecency, which cover same-sex relations, attract a sentence of up to 20 years under the country’s Penal Code.
The quasi-military government – which has been accused of war crimes and human rights abuses during its war on the Tamil minority by the UN, UNHCR, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch – maintains a tight grip on the country.They keep a special eye on anyone working in the field of human rights. When UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay recently visited Sri Lanka, the army subsequently paid a call on everyone she met.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser is among dozens of prominent Australians who called on the previous federal government to consider boycotting the CHOGM summit in Sri Lanka (which takes place next month), signing a petition organised by the Australian Tamil Congress.
Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said “It is wrong that a country that stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity is allowed to build international legitimacy by using international bodies such as CHOGM.”
The Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation urged the Australian government to use whatever bilateral and multilateral fora that were available to it to raise concerns about the clear abuses of human rights in Sri Lanka and to urge the Commonwealth not to remain silent.
Silence would be contrary to the organisation’s Charter, which states that the Commonwealth “is devoted to improving the lives of all the people of the Commonwealth” (my emphasis).
The 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 15 to 17 November 2013.
Canada has threatened to boycott the conference unless Sri Lanka’s human rights record improves.The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom has called on British Prime Minister David Cameron to not attend the meeting to protest Sri Lanka’s human rights record. However, Cameron has affirmed that he will be attending while Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper has not confirmed either way.