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GAY-LESBIAN FRIENDLY PARTY/ DISCO IN SRI LANKA
and foreign friends from Sri Lankan Gay Friends internet site/ virtual
club, 6699 Club and Companions on a Journey attended at the first ever
mega disco organized by 6699 club in a Beach Hotel in Mount Lavinia,
Sri Lanka on 15 January 2000. The disco was started around 8.20 PM and
ran into 2 am following day. Some lesbians of "Friendship Sri Lanka"
also attended. To commemorate this event, a music single was also released
to support national and international gay movement.
If you wish
to get in touch with Companions please write to
New gay group in Sri Lanka
66-99 club is a new gay group in Sri Lanka, based in Colombo- Mount Lavinia - Rathmalana - Nugegoda region. It is mainly run by young people. As one of its first activities they organised a gay disco in a hotel in western coast of Sri Lanka recently, where large group of young and mature Sri Lankans participated. Though they have attracted gays even from rural parts of Sri Lanka, one of the major problems faced by this group is to find a permanent place to meet and conduct their activities.
LAW REGARDING HOMOSEXUALITY IN SRI LANKA
According to Sri Lankan penal code, sex between men is punishable by 12 years in jail while the existence of lesbianism is not even acknowledged by the 1883 Penal Code.
Though this law is not being properly enforced in the country, its mere existence is enough for the police and anti-gay groups to brand gays and lesbians as "perverts" and lawbreakers. Article 365 of the penal code is discriminatory and gives a stigma to those who are gay. It leads to a lot of abuses of gay people in our community.
Vote on anti-gay laws and more info.
DROP IN CENTRE FOR GAYS AND LESBIANS
1999 June - From a house in a fashionable residential section of Colombo, a former Roman Catholic trainee priest is leading a campaign to change Sri Lanka's attitudes and laws on homosexuality.
Sherman de Rose, speaking at the "Drop-in-Centre" which has become a haven for gays and lesbians struggling to come out, admits that the archaic law has not been strictly enforced in recent years.
He said some 900 gay men and women have made contact with his rights group, Companions on a Journey, since it was started years ago. Many members are still afraid to come out openly.
De Rose himself has come a long way since he first dressed in his mother's saris and his sisters' skirts and played with their dolls, shunning the rough and tumble games of his peers.
After two stints as a receptionist in deluxe hotels here, de Rose formed the group which held its second "National Gay Conference" at a secluded hotel last week.
"It is remarkable that 60 gay men came out in the open and were willing to discuss openly their problems, fears and concerns," he said. "The consensus was that as an organization we should be more formalized."
De Rose's Companions has no paid membership but activists "cruise" public places such as shopping malls and beaches asking other gays to join the movement and benefit from various services offered.
They give away condoms provided by a government agency and arrange counseling as well as free clinics for sexually transmitted diseases. The group also conducts AIDS awareness programs and tries to encourage safe sex among gays and lesbians. It receives funding from a Dutch organization.
The Companions are male-dominated but there are a few dozen lesbians who work with them. Once a week the "Drop in Centre" is reserved for women and all men are asked to vacate the building.
A lesbian who identified herself only as Marie helps other women to deal with their sexuality. But she herself is afraid openly to declare her sexual orientation for fear that her family will suffer indignity. "There are lot of women who are actually lesbians but they haven't had sex with other women because of fear and social pressures," said Marie, 41. "What we tell them here is that there is nothing wrong with that."
Both she and de Rose say social attitudes must change along with the law. But any move by the government to repeal relevant sections of the penal code could invite a political backlash from conservatives.
In 1995 the government agreed to consider the gay community's demands. But last year Sri Lankan Justice Minister made it clear it did not intend to spend time reviewing laws that were not enforced anyway. For the government, he said, there were more pressing problems like reforming the constitution and battling Tamil Tiger guerrillas in the north and east.
In the meantime, most gays can remain in the closet.
60 ATTENDED FOR GAY CONFERENCE
1999 July - Sixty gay men attended Sri Lanka's second National Gay Conference in late June. "It is remarkable that 60 gay men came out in the open and were willing to discuss openly their problems, fears and concerns," said Sherman De Rose of the organizing group, Companions on a Journey. "The consensus was that as an organization we should be more formalized."
The group's members have made contact with more than 900 fellow homosexuals by cruising malls and beaches. With funding from a Dutch foundation, they distribute rubbers and safe-sex information and offer counseling and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
SRI LANKAN LESBIANS PLAN CONFERENCE
1999 August - About 150 people are expected to attend Sri Lanka's first national lesbian convention in December. The event is being planned by a group of women in Colombo who have been meeting at the offices of the gay-male group Companions on a Journey.
"Lesbians are generally accepted by society if they are financially independent and come from upper-middle-class backgrounds," one of the organizers, Tami, told Agence France- Presse. "It is when they are less independent that they suffer all sorts of problems from their homes and at work. It is such people we want to help. Maybe help them to get better jobs and also feel that they are not alone."
News/ Gay, Lesbian activities in Sri Lanka (Part 2)