Sri Lankan gays protest at newspaper stereotyping

Gavin Lambert February 25, 2008
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Gay activists have launched a campaign to obtain a rebuttal of a story printed by the Sri Lankan newspaper The Island that portrays homosexuality as a psychological disorder.

Equal Ground, an LGBT rights organisation based in Sri Lanka, has joined forces with the Sri Lankan society of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) to express “their deep regret and shock” at the article entitled Treating alternative forms of sexual expression.

The article gives pointers in how to identify homosexuals, claiming that “most homosexuals tend to be alike in certain behaviours and they generally choose certain occupations like hairdressing, fashion designing and modelling.

“In Sri Lankan culture, homosexual behaviour is not an expected normal behaviour and most parents of adolescents who suspect their children of having homosexual relationships refer them to a

physician or psychologist for remedial therapy.”

Dr Perera, a key ‘expert’ used by the paper says treatment should include: “counselling, cognitive therapy and behaviour modification therapy.”

In response to the article, Equal Ground has sent a letter to the editor of The Island pointing out the inaccuracies of the article as well as the deeply offensive and potentially dangerous claims that it makes.

“Uninformed articles such as these are extremely damaging to the dignity and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender

individuals in our community,” the group wrote.

“It is of paramount importance that medical professionals, psychologists and mental health workers keep themselves up to

date on the constant developments in their field.

“As this specific article illustrates, the inability to do so may actually lead to greater suffering and trauma for many.”

In a separate letter Aritha Wickramasinghe of the Sri Lankan society at the LSE said:

“The Society affirms its finding of the article as seriously

discriminatory and dangerous to public peace.”

Last year another Sri Lankan newspaper, Divaina, was accused of similar inaccuracies and using scare tactics when they published an article talking about homosexuality and effeminate men in Sri Lanka and the problems they face as they get older.

It also made claims about the number of homosexuals in Sri Lanka who become involved in commercial sex work to make a living.

Divaina, a Sinhala language newspaper is a sister title of the English language The Island.

Homosexual acts between men, regardless of age, are prohibited in Sri Lanka, with a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.

The law is not enforced and there have been no prosecutions for 50 years, but in a largely Buddhist country homosexuality is seen as a sin.

Further details can be found on the Equal Ground website.

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