BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: South Asia
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Sri Lanka gay group denounces attacks

By Frances Harrison in Colombo

An association representing the gay and lesbian community in Sri Lanka says its members have been subjected to horrible, inhuman, indecent and vicious treatment in the five years since it was established.

Sherman de Rose
Sherman de Rose: Offices stoned and members attacked
The organisation, known as Companions on a Journey, has just won an international award for its work and has begun to assist the Sri Lankan Government in its Aids awareness work.

When the group first set up its office, there were death threats.

"People stoned our offices and three of our members including myself were assaulted," said the group's executive director, Sherman de Rose.

Five years on, they have 1,400 registered members and they say their Colombo drop-in centre receives at least 15 visitors a day - despite the social stigma surrounding homosexuality.

Assisting government

The drop-in centres, which they say were the first to be set up in South Asia, offer counselling, make-up classes, shelter, education and health advice to the gay, lesbian and bisexual community.

The organisation has also begun working with the Ministry of Health on its outreach programme, distributing free condoms at gay meeting places.

It has also held a series of dialogues with sympathetic decision makers.

Homosexuality remains illegal in Sri Lanka under a colonial law dating back more than 100 years - but no one has been prosecuted for the last 50 years.

Homophobia

However, lesbian and gay activists say the mere presence of the law encourages blackmail and homophobia.

The most blatant example of that occurred last year, when Sri Lankan lesbians said they were planning to hold a national conference.

One major newspaper printed a letter from a man who suggested convicted rapists should be set free among the lesbians to give them what he called a taste of the real thing.

Companions on a Journey challenged the newspaper's decision to print the letter in an appeal to the Press Council - but lost.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

30 Mar 00 | Americas
US rabbis approve gay partnership
05 May 00 | Wales
Lesbian row at town hall
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories