"Saman" is a graduate student in Sri Lanka who was doing research on ‘safer sex’ for his thesis. He told me that while he was working in the southern city of Galle, the local police detained and tortured him assuming he was gay. While in detention he witnessed how the Sri Lankan police discriminated against other allegedly gay men who were locked up in jail. Fearing retribution, Saman did not want to show his face or use his real name in recording this experience. Under the Sri Lankan penal code Section 365 A, homosexual acts are prohibited and "violators" face a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. While few cases have ever been prosecuted, the threat of public shame and blackmail looms large for Sri Lanka’s gay community and this "dead letter" has become a greater threat in light of pervasive police corruption.
This is only one example of the codified homophobia in Sri Lanka and its oppressive side-effects. Similar incidents are still happening to LGBT individuals in Sri Lanka on a regular basis. These incidents include, but are not limited to blackmail, violent threats, employment discrimination, and rejection by friends, family, the police, and society at large. Cases of physical assault, harassment, and detention are not uncommon. Regardless, these incidents are more or less ignored by the Sri Lankan media; even when they are reported, their connection to homophobia is rarely articulated. Of course, many LGBT individuals are happy to keep these incidents quiet, fearing that they would be subject to further attacks if they were outed. Both gay and straight Sri Lankans hold a negative view of homosexuality.
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