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Statement by womens rights

organisations, activists on NHRAP


Featured image courtesy Adithya Alles/IPS

GROUNDVIEWS on 02/09/2017
We, a collective of Sri Lankan individuals and organisations
working for the advancement of the human rights of women, are
unanimous in our concern about the disturbing news that certain
provisions in the National Human Rights Action Plan, critical to
womens rights and gender equality, are at risk of being dropped.

Reports in the mainstream media referred to calls from a few


members of the Cabinet to drop selected clauses in the Womens
Rights chapter which recommend the repeal of discriminatory
legislation. Repealing discriminatory laws is imperative to
ensuring that all Sri Lankan citizens are guaranteed their full
human rights, regardless of sexual orientation and gender
identity, the work they choose to engage in, or in relation to the
exercise of the right to freedom of movement.
Changes to the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights chapter have
also been reported [1]; this is especially alarming, as it seems the
objections raised are in relation a clause to ensure that all persons
have free and fair access to public healthcare, a basic human
right, regardless of their chosen line of work, sexual orientation
and gender identity.
The chapter on Womens Rights was clear in its request that all
discriminatory practices and legislation must be abandoned, with
explicit mention that all individuals should be guaranteed
equality, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, and
chosen line of work. Womens organizations submissions to the
Public Representations Committee on constitutional reform also
stressed the importance of addressing the history and reality of
systemic marginalisation faced by women (including sex-workers)
and persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities
in Sri Lanka, despite the equality clause in the present
constitution. Many of these concerns were echoed in the report of
the PRC, published last year.
Clear and wilful affirmative action must therefore be taken by the
State to end discrimination, in practice as well as legislation. The
State has a responsibility to deliver on its commitment to grant all
citizens equality and dignity.
The National Human Rights Action Plan was drafted
collaboratively by members of government and civil society.
Unfortunately, though wider public consultation was sought prior
to drafting the NHRAP, a finalised draft was not circulated for
wider comment. However, the drafting benefited from the
expertise and experience of the government and non-
governmental sectors. The drafting process, and the plan which
resulted from it, can be seen as a culmination of efforts to realise
a truly equal, just and united Sri Lanka, where all persons can be
empowered and valued.
We therefore call on the President, Prime Minister and/or any
member of cabinet to consult directly with representatives of the
affected groups without unilaterally contravening that process.
We urge you to increase transparency around the current process,
and seek collaboration, so that the National Human Rights Action
Plan the government finally adopts will be fair and democratic.
We are furthermore dismayed at the statement made by the
Minister of Justice naming homosexuality as a mental illness. It is
unfortunate that a person with education and experience, holding
such a high office, and the power to influence many, made such
an erroneous statement, publicly. Homosexuality was declassified
by psychologists in 1973 and the World Health Organization
removed references to homosexuality as a mental disorder in
1990.
The Vagrants Ordinance is used to harass, arrest and detain sex-
workers, and is also used to criminalize the poor, mentally ill,
disabled and other vulnerable persons. Articles 365 and 365A of
the Penal Code, which are widely considered to criminalise
homosexuality, are used to arrest, detain, harass, intimidate,
blackmail and shame persons of diverse sexual orientations and
gender identities.
As long as outdated colonial laws such as these exist, countless
women (and others) across Sri Lanka are forced to live a life of
fear, abuse, rejection and discrimination, at the hands of state
actors, communities and families. In addition to being vulnerable
to violence and harassment, these laws create negative social
attitudes towards specific groups of people, and contribute to a
regressive culture.
We acknowledge that initial steps have been taken to begin the
eradication of discriminatory practices within state institutions
such as the police, as well as in the private and public health
sectors, through training and sensitization efforts. This is valued.
We urge the state to maintain a strong and consistent effort to
continue this important work.
Finally, the repeal of discriminatory laws and the guarantee of
equal rights for all human beings is essential to the realisation of
a full and lasting peace, and to the building of a sustainable,
meaningful democracy. We call on the President and the Cabinet
of Ministers to ensure the adoption of a National Human Rights
Action Plan which protects, respects, promotes and fulfils the
human rights of everyone.

[1] http://www.sundaytimes.lk/170122/columns/unp-slfp-poles-
apart-on-constitutional-reforms-225740.html
Signed:

NAME ORGANIZATION REGION

Subha Colombo
Wijesiriwardena

Marisa de Silva Colombo

Sepali Kottegoda Women and Media Colombo


Collective (WMC)

Senel Hashtag Colombo


Wanniarachchi Generation

Kamani Jinadasa

Paba Deshapriya The Grassrooted Kurunegala


Trust

Chandramathie Social Welfare Hatton


Mandram

Vanie Simon Affected Womens Amparai


Forum

Cayathri D

Shreen Saroor Mannar

Indika Horana & Colombo


Dayarathna

Hans Billimoria The Grassrooted Colombo


Trust

Hyshyama Colombo
Hamin

Caryll Tozer Colombo

Tehani
Ariyaratne
Navaranjini Jaffna
Nadarajah
(Sureka)

K.Kandeepan Batticaloa

Chulani Kodikara

Chandraguptha Ethul Kotte


Thenuwara

Sumi Kerison

B. Gowthaman

Thilina Madiwala Gampaha

Sinthuka Jaffna
Vivekananthan

Prabu Deepan Colombo

Indrani Praja Diriya Puttalam


Kusumalatha Padanama

Camena Colombo
Guneratne

Chandra Women Badulla


Jayarathne Development
Centre
Anuratha Batticaloa
Rajaretnam

Asha
Abeyasekera

Suriya Womens Batticaloa


Development
Centre

Sarala Batticaloa
Emmanuel

Gayathri
Jayasooriya

Devmi Dampella The Family Colombo


Planning
Association of Sri
Lanka

samitha FISD Colombo


sugathimala

Rasika Deepani Colombo

Vanamali Women and Media Colombo


Kaushalya Collective (WMC)
Galappatti

Zainab Ibrahim Colombo

Thulasi Jaffna
Muttulingam
Sitralega Batticaloa
Maunaguru

Ruhanie Perera Colombo

Madu Director, Family Colombo


Dissanayake Planning
Association

Dinushika Colombo
Dissanayake

Jayanthi Kuru- Colombo


Utumpala

Deekshya Colombo
Illangasinghe

Anushaya Colombo
Collure

Saama Colombo
Rajakaruna

S C C Elankovan

Yasmin Tambiah

Rosanna Flamer- EQUAL GROUND Colombo


Caldera

Nimalka Attorney-at-law, Colombo


Fernando, Womens Political
Academy
Lakmali EQUAL GROUND Colombo
Kothalawala

Thushara Manoj EQUAL GROUND Colombo

Sharni Colombo
Jayawardena

Dhanushka EQUAL GROUND Colombo


Rajaratnam

S.A.H.Subasinha EQUAL GROUND Colombo

Dhaneshi EQUAL GROUND Colombo


Yatawara

Udeni Attorney -at Law Colombo


Thewarapperum
a

Dabindu Gampaha
Collectibve,
Womens
Organization

Annouchka Colombo
Wijesinghe

Mirak Raheem Colombo

Maithreyi Viluthu, Centre for Colombo, Puttalam,


Rajasingam Human Resource Jaffna, Mullaitivu,
Development Kilinochchi, Trincomalee,
Batticoloa, Mannar

Hemamali Colombo
Wijesinghe

Womens Action A collection of Womens


Network Organisations from the
North East

Mannar Womens Mannar


Development
Federation

Paikiasothy Colombo
Saravanamuttu

Centre for Policy Colombo


Alternatives

Iromi Perera Colombo

Nadira Batticaloa
Mariyasandana
m

Posted by Thavam