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Meet Equal Ground, Sri Lanka’s Oldest LGBTQ+ Advocacy Group | GO Magazine

In December of 2004, the exact same 12 months
Rosanna Flamer-Caldera
founded the LGBTQ+ nonprofit
Equal Soil
within her native Sri Lanka, the united states ended up being devastated by a tsunami which left-over

35,000 missing or lifeless

. For a lot of their first year, Equal Ground focused the attempts not on LGBTQ+ advocacy but rather on catastrophe reduction, taking a trip across the nation and providing help to the people in need of assistance.

“it absolutely was rather damaging,” Flamer-Caldera informed me when we talked earlier in the day this month. Although initiatives had an unintended and unforeseen result. A few years later, she ended up being called by a Muslim couple regarding east shore of Sri Lanka who
Equal Surface
had worked with within the reduction days. The happy couple — along with their pals and contacts out eastern — wanted to reserve Equal Ground for LGBTQ+ awareness sensitizing products inside their local communities. Keyword traveled fast. Soon, different communities around Sri Lanka had been reserving programs, as well.

“and thus that way, it simply continued and on and on,” Flamer-Caldera tells GO. The company’s work in 2004 “paved ways for Equal Ground to enter all of these places and mention LGBTQ+ rights.”

Now, seventeen decades later,

Equal Ground

is Sri Lanka’s earliest non profit LGBTQ+ advocacy group, increasing knowing of legal rights and presence in a nation that officially supplies no defenses for queer and gender non-conforming men and women. Equal soil is actually a safe area for queer individuals and events, but a platform for academic outreach to queer people and prospective partners across nation. Equal Ground supplies social and networking possibilities through neighborhood occasions and Pride celebrations; counseling solutions for lesbian and bisexual ladies and trans persons through two split hotlines as well as on social networking platforms; instructional and sensitizing courses for corporations and media organizations; and education workshops on topics including gender-based physical violence, personal rights, and intimate and reproductive health in local communities. The entity in question in addition creates educational guides on queer liberties and consciousness throughout three of this countries’ languages (Tamil, Sinhalese, and English) and run qualitative investigation in the encounters of, and attitudes toward, Sri Lanka’s LGBTQ+ population.

“Sometimes we use women’s organizations, feminist companies, sometimes we deal with people, often we make use of LGBT teams. It is dependent on which we’re contacting and who our company is dealing with in those days,” Flamer-Caldera claims.

The idea of LGBTQ+ liberties is still significantly new within the southeast Asian nation, which until 2009 was actually embroiled in a 25 12 months municipal battle involving the Sinhalese-led federal government and Tamil separatist teams. Same-sex interactions tend to be successfully criminalized under Sri Lanka’s penal code. Although it does not name homosexuality especially as a crime, the code does prohibit “carnal understanding against the order of character,” “gross indecency,” and “cheat[ing] by impersonation,” which have been grasped to connect with same-sex interactions, according to a

2016 document

from Human Liberties See. A

subsequent report from business posted last year

unearthed that queer and gender non-conforming people continue to deal with “arbitrary arrest, police mistreatment, and discrimination in opening health care, work, and construction.”

“It’s an awful thing to express about my nation, but the audience is, unfortunately, in a really poor destination nevertheless,” Flamer-Caldera informs GO. Although a local of Sri Lanka, Flamer-Caldera failed to always know-how poor things were until after she’d returned home from San Francisco, where she’d existed for fifteen years and in which she had come out. “whenever I came back, I unexpectedly realized there were statutes that criminalize consenting grownups, exact same gender, intimate relations, and that I had been like, ‘You’ve have got to be kidding. Are we staying in the terrible dark colored ages or what?'”

Not merely one to let surprise obtain the better of her, Flamer-Caldera made a decision to do some worthwhile thing about it. Upon coming back from bay area, she first start your lesbian and bisexual ladies class, called the ladies’ assistance Group; she in addition got herself chosen the co-secretary general with the Foreign Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Association (IGLA). After a few years, but she realized “there was no person, actually, doing anything for the entire LGBT society here in Sri Lanka.” She started Equal Ground in 2004 available this broader assistance your LGBTQ+ neighborhood.

“Even if the laws and regulations change these days, perception doesn’t transform the next day,” Flamer-Caldera says. However, she has seen perceptions change over recent years.

Equal Ground went a three-month venture also known as Ally for Equality, which labeled as on individuals from across the country to share small videos to Facebook professing their own allyship. “I imagined I would only have to basically twist my pals’ hands to submit videos,” Flamer-Caldera claims. Instead, “we’d over 100 video clips originating from all components of the island, speaking in most three languages. Which was remarkable. Five years ago, nobody will have submitted a video clip.”

As perceptions modification, ideally legislation will, also. From the government level, Sri Lanka has actually viewed some progress lately, although much remains wanted to advance the main cause of LGBTQ+ liberties, which remain challenging. After the defeat of strongman president Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2015 elections, the fresh new government granted a Gender popularity round, makes it possible for individuals to transform their own gender indicators on official documents. In a 2016 ruling,

the Supreme Court known

contemporary considering “that consensual sex between grownups shouldn’t be policed because of the condition nor should it is grounds for criminalisation” but in the long run determined that in Sri Lanka, “the offense stays quite definitely section of our law.” Next, in 2017,

the government refused

to instate explicit anti-discriminatory protections for intimate orientation and identity within proposed nationwide Human Rights Action Plan; at the time, the Minister of Health asserted that “the federal government is against homosexuality, but we’ll perhaps not prosecute any person for practising it.” Later that same season, soon after an assessment of the us Human Rights Council,

the nation’s Deputy Minister promised

that nation would decriminalize same-sex relations, and add direct protections against discrimination. However, the us government has actually yet to behave about guarantee, and/or U.N referrals.

Despite the Minister of wellness’s proclamation that federal government will not prosecute men and women engaged in same-sex connections, legal rights teams like Equal Ground claim that the legislation nevertheless offer cover for authorities to harass, misuse, and solicit bribes from queer and gender non-conforming folks. Between 2010 and 2012, the ladies’s assistance cluster (WSG — founded by Flamer-Caldera) interviewed 33 queer-identifying ladies and 51 stakeholders (doctors, lawyers, companies, media associates, spiritual frontrunners) for a qualitative study of queer ladies’ experiences.

The analysis

learned that 13 from the 33 LBT participants had reported harassment and violence as a result of police, who does focus on trans people and females of masculine look.

Recently, Human Rights Watch, along with Equal Ground,


that since 2017 — annually following the Minister of wellness reported the government would not prosecute folks for engaging in same-sex relations — at least seven men and women was forced to go through anal and genital exams by authorities, who have been trying to discover proof alleged homosexual activities. Only one 12 months previously,
another report
by Human Liberties View

discovered that from the 61 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals interviewed, over one half stated that they had already been detained by police without cause, while 16 participants — primarily males and trans people — said they practiced intimate abuse or assault by police.

Violence and persecution as a result of condition actors are simply an element of the issue experiencing queer folks in the traditional nation in which patriarchal principles and sex functions include norm. The WSG learn from early 2010s learned that all 33 LBT interviewees had experienced psychological violence because of their sex, typically from members of the family; two-thirds experienced physical violence as well as one half had experienced sexual physical violence. Four seasoned harassment at work, and seven reported being forced into mental hospitals, healthcare features, or spiritual establishments, frequently at a parent’s demand, getting “treated” of homosexuality.

“We are battling in regards to our life here,” Flamer-Caldera claims. “There’s a lot of intimidation, intimate assault, rape, beatings, extortion, blackmail.” Despite enhanced efforts to educate LGBTQ+ persons of the liberties through publications like

“My Personal Liberties, My Personal Obligation”

(produced in all three Sri Lankan dialects), many these events go unreported, since subjects are usually too worried to speak out against state stars like authorities, and/or against nearest and dearest. Equal Ground might probably see only 25 to 30 research per year, symbolizing just a portion of violations.

However, although LGBTQ+ folks face carried on obstacles to acceptance, there is doubting that Equal Ground makes considerable inroads in reshaping Sri Lanka’s social reality. “advancement is calculated differently,” Flamer-Caldera says: inside growing Pride celebrations, in which folks cheer on Rainbow flag, or on social networking, where allies show their particular unwavering service for all the LGBTQ+ community. Equal Ground has been welcomed into even more areas, too. The company conducted training and classes in 18 of Sri Lanka’s 25 areas, including in Jaffna for the north, long-off restrictions during the disruptive times of civil battle. Today, in Jaffna and in other areas, LGBTQ+ teams are starting to pop up “like mushrooms,” Flamer-Caldera states. “this is certainly great. That is absolutely great.”

She additionally thinks which they’ve garnered sufficient assistance for LGBTQ+ rights culturally they could probably begin switching statutes, as well. Equal Ground has recently executed qualitative investigation when preparing for a major news campaign, about level of marriage equality in the us, and found that “many are at the empathetic phase, and simply pushed inside recognition phase,” she informs me. “we had been amazed at answers.”

Equal Ground has come a long method from 2004, whenever its comfort attempts initially gave the class unanticipated inroads into Sri Lanka’s regional communities. The street provides sometimes already been hard, but “we’ve evolved quite a bit,” Flamer-Caldera informs me. During the seventeen decades since she very first founded Equal Ground, Pride activities tend to be flourishing, queer people have access to identity-affirming resources and room, and attitudes when you look at the traditional nation are starting to heat for the LGBTQ+ neighborhood. Although LGBTQ+ individuals continue to have quite a distance to go in Sri Lanka, Flamer-Caldera informs me, she actually is “quite delighted” with the progress they will have already produced.