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Volume 4 - Issue 2 - October 2010

Celebrating Diversity with PRIDE!


EDITORIAL The year has rushed by yet again and as we journey through the last few months left, it is perhaps pertinent to reflect on the accomplishments of our staff, members, volunteers and trustees in making this year one of the busiest and memorable years yet! One of the highlights of course was the month long Colombo PRIDE celebrations which were held in Colombo, Piliyandala and Mt. Lavinia this year. The key event of the PRIDE festivities this year was the extravagant and flamboyant production – RAINBOW RUNWAY. The show, which focused on fashions for the Queer community, included up and coming designers as well as well established ones who utilized the talents of professional and amateur models to show off their elaborate and stunning designs. Gay and Straight collaborated on stage, back stage and front of house to make sure this show was a success…and it certainly was! For the first time, the news media collaborated with EQUAL GROUND to give media coverage for the show. Based on the speech to open the show, the media clamored to cover the ongoing discussion and debates that raged on the internet as well as in Newspapers, TV and Internet. Interviews and several positive articles were published in most of the leading English Newspapers in Sri Lanka. This led to the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka stating publicly (in the Daily Mirror) that the Government was not opposed to discussing the needs of the LGBTIQ community and its request for Equal Rights. For us here in Sri Lanka, this was not only a major step in the right direction, it also gave the LGBTIQ community hope that at last our quest for Human Rights and equal treatment under the law was being acknowledged and discussed at the highest levels. In yet another important accomplishment, Colombo PRIDE 2010 was sponsored by a leading Daily and a leading Sunday newspaper (they do not wish to be named). ETV sponsored TV coverage before and after Rainbow Runway, running advertisements on the show as well as all the other PRIDE events. The British Council hosted the Art & Photo Exhibition as well as the Film Festival. In our quest to bring the latest and the best, this year Colombo PRIDE was proud to introduce several new LGBT movies for screening at the film festival. Several of these movies had debuted at the London LGBT film Festival earlier this year. A Sinahla film subtitled in English, ‘Akasa Kusum’ played to a packed house. We were very fortunate to have the director of the movie, Prasanna Vitharnage and actress Samanalee Fonseka with us for a discussion following the movie. The Diplomatic Community came out to support Colombo PRIDE this year with the British High Commission hosting a reception and screening “Beyond Gay: the Politics of Pride” as part of the Colombo PRIDE Festivities. The Netherlands Embassy and SIDA were our main fiscal sponsors for Colombo PRIDE this year and the Norwegian Embassy were the fiscal sponsors of “Leave a light on for me” the drama/comedy production. Other sponsors included:, The Colombo Spirit, Ticketslk, Stamina and Easy Glide, Galadari Hotel, Kess, the DJ Academy, La Voile Blanche and Rhythm ‘n Blues. Additionally, Astraea Foundation supported the Youth Conference. We are extremely grateful to all our sponsors, volunteers and supporters for their unstinting support. It made this year’s Colombo PRIDE the biggest and longest PRIDE celebration in Sri Lanka to date! In February we were approached by Women Defining Peace to collaborate with them on a project to address violence against

Lesbian and Bisexual women in the rural areas. We are happy to report that this project is now well on its way. Two publications too have been finalized within this project and we are happy to be able to publish ‘Stepping Out: A parent’s guide to LGBT children’ (in English, Sinhala and Tamil) and the ‘Yogyakarta Principles’ translated into Tamil and Sinhala and printed in all three languages. Please contact our office if you need a copy of either publication. 10 satellite officers from the North Central, Western, Central and Southern Provinces were appointed and trained on documenting LB based violence in the rural areas along with training on Gender and sexuality, monitoring and evaluation and other relevant tools. Over 30 Workshops on Sexuality, Gender and Human Rights were held in several different parts of the country. Our Counseling Hotline continues to operate with a new training program for existing and new volunteers taking place in November 2010. EQUAL GROUND was asked to make presentations at 2 Rotary Club meetings and our sensitizing programs continue with the Lady Ridgway Hospital. The list of activities covered during this publication (July to October 2010) is included in this publication. Additionally, it is pertinent to note that our Advertisement and Poster Campaigns for International Women’s Day, International Day Against Transphobia and Homophobia, The International day to Eliminate Violence against Women and World AIDS day – the latter two still to be commemorated on going to press – have also contributed to raising the level of visibility and awareness to LGBTIQ issues here in Sri Lanka. It has been exhausting! But very rewarding. I cannot thank my staff enough, not just for their dedication, but also for their passion, their untiring effort constantly and their vision to make this one of our most successful years to date. I also cannot thank our sponsors and donors enough! Their continued support and confidence in our abilities to get the job done has certainly contributed greatly to our efforts. I want to take this opportunity to thank our regular donors – HIVOS, SIDA, AJWS, Global Fund for Women, GEN, WDP/CIDA and Astraea – for supporting us this year. We hope to continue in this vein for many years to come. We cannot afford to get complacent, nor can we rest on our laurels….we need to work harder, we need to be more vigilant and most of all we need to keep the fires of hope and passion burning brightly. Be out, be proud, be who you are! Together we will get to where we are going!

INTERNATIONAL NEWS As President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner supports the legislation, she is expected to sign it into law, making Argentina the first Latin American country to allow same-sex marriage. The bill will grant gay couples equal rights, including the right to adopt children. It amends marriage laws to refer to the "marrying parties", rather than men and women. The protests of religious groups did not dissuade politicians from backing the bill, despite thousands of people demonstrating against it in capital city Buenos Aires yesterday. The Pope's number one in the country, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, even claimed it was the work of the devil. Gay couples will be permitted to marry in Argentina Argentina's Senate has voted 33-27 to support a bill to legalise gay marriage.

Argentina becomes first country in Latin America to legalise gay marriage By Jessica Geen • July 15, 2010 - 10:35

Judge rules gay marriage in California to resume next week By Jessica Geen • August 12, 2010 - 21:18

President Kirchner rebutted this, saying that such sentiments "send us back to medieval times and the Inquisition". Currently, only a few areas of Argentina recognise civil unions between same-sex couples: Buenos Aires itself, the province of Río Negro in Patagonia, and the city of Villa Carlos Paz in Córdoba province. Worldwide, Argentina is the tenth country to allow gay marriage after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Iceland, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden and Portugal.

Same-sex marriages are to resume next week in California after a federal judge lifted the ban. Judge Vaughn Walker ruled last week that banning gay marriage in the state is unconstitutional but ruled on Thursday that his verdict should apply now, rather than staying the order while gay marriage opponents appeal. However, the week-long delay means that gay marriage opponents can appeal to a higher court to keep the ban in place. Judge Walker wrote: “The evidence presented at trial and the position of the representatives of the State of California show that an injunction against enforcement of Proposition 8 is in the public’s interest. "Accordingly, the court concludes that the public interest counsels against entry of the stay proponents seek.” If no order to keep the ban is made, gay couples can begin marrying again on Wednesday August 18th. California legalised marriage for gay couples in 2008 but the voter initiative Proposition 8 struck it down in the same year. Judge Walker's verdict comes after a three-week trial in February, which was the first federal trial to examine the issue. Both Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown had asked him to lift the stay. The issue is expected to be contested all the way to the US Supreme Court.



Massachusetts judge rules Defence of Marriage Act is unconstitutional By Staff Writer, • July 9, 2010 - 10:42 A judge in Boston, Massachusetts, has ruled that America's federal ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional as it interferes with the individual rights of states. The ruling means the estimated 16,000 married gay couples in Massachusetts have the right to the same federal benefits enjoyed by married straight couples. Massachusetts was the first US state to legalise gay marriage in 2004 and is the first to challenge the controversial Act, introduced in 1996. President Barack Obama promised to repeal the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) in his election campaign, calling it "abhorrent". It states that only a marriage between one man and one woman will be recognised for federal purposes, thus barring gay married couples from a number of rights, including federal healthcare benefits. In his ruling yesterday, US District Judge Joseph Tauro said that "irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest", and that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment. He ruled simultaneously on two separate lawsuits brought to challenge the ban. One was filed by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) on behalf of eight gay married couples and three widows and the other was filed by Massachusetts Attorney-General Martha Coakley. Ms Coakley said the decision was "a victory for civil rights". Mary Bonauto, GLAD’s civil rights project director, who argued the case, said: “Today the court simply affirmed that our country won’t tolerate second-class marriages. "I’m pleased that Judge Tauro recognised that married same-sex couples and surviving spouses have been seriously harmed by

Mexico: Landmark Adoption Ruling for Same-Sex Couples Supreme Court Ruling Follows Decision Upholding Marriage Rights (New York, August 16, 2010) - The landmark ruling on August 16, 2010, by Mexico's Supreme Court recognizing the right of same-sex couples to adopt children in Mexico City upholds the core principle of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people


DOMA and that the plaintiffs deserve the same opportunities to care and provide for each other and for their children that other families enjoy. This ruling will make a real difference for countless families in Massachusetts.” Nancy Gill, who was a plaintiff with her wife, Marcelle Letourneau, said: “I am thrilled that my family will now be treated in the same way as those of my married co-workers at the post office. “Marcelle and I married out of love and commitment to each other first and foremost, but federal recognition of our marriage means that we’ll have equal access to important protections for our two children and for ourselves.” The Obama administration may appeal the ruling, although legal experts believe that if upheld by a higher court, the case could have far wider implications. Boston College professor Kent Greenfield, a constitutional law expert, told AP today that the rulings could encourage other attorney-generals to challenge DOMA in their states, "One thing that's going to be really interesting to watch is whether the Obama administration appeals or not," he said. The Department of Justice has not yet said whether it will appeal.

in all aspects of their lives, including family life, Human Rights Watch said today. Mexico's high court voted 9-2 to guarantee adoption for these couples. Last week it decided in favor of the right to same-sex marriage and made clear that other states in the country have to recognize the same-sex marriages that take place in Mexico City. "The Supreme Court's ruling confirms that the state cannot withhold any legal rights on the grounds of a person's sexual orientation and gender identity," said Juliana Cano Nieto, researcher in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch. "This decision will have resonance for courts throughout the continent for protecting the basic human rights of LGBT people." The Supreme Court's decision came in response to a challenge

INTERNATIONAL NEWS brought by the federal attorney general's office to the December 2009 law in the Mexico City federal district that extended the definition of marriage to include marriage between same-sex couples. The attorney general's office contended that the law breached the concept of family and the "best interest of the child" guaranteed in the constitution by allowing LGBT couples to adopt. The court, however, said that the definition of a family is not restricted to one formed by a man and woman. The court cited the European Court of Human Rights judgment in E.B. v France, which held that a single lesbian woman could not be denied the right to adopt a child due to her sexual orientation and reiterated that same-sex couples should have the same rights to adopt as heterosexual couples and single parents to fully guarantee equality and freedom from discrimination. Finally, it made clear that the "best

LANDMARK RULINGS 12/08/2010 New York – Two landmark rulings on same-sex marriage were issued last week – a US district court struck down Proposition 8’s ban on gay marriage in California, and Mexico’s Supreme Court recognized the right to same-sex marriages in Mexico City. Both rulings uphold the core principle of equality for same-sex partners in all aspects of their lives, including family life. In California, a federal court said that society has moved away from a time when different genders played different and distinct roles in marriage and in their communities. As a result, society has moved toward marriage as an institution that is “free from state-mandated gender roles.” “The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household,” read Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s decision. Regardless of their gender, spouses have an obligation to each other and their children, the decision read. California first legalized marriage for gay couples in May 2008, and more than 18,000 lesbian and gay couples married in California in the following months. Proposition 8, a state referendum that narrowly passed in November, withdrew the right to marry from gay and lesbian couples and put those existing marriages at risk. “Proposition 8 denies people the equal protection of the laws, a fundamental human right,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program. “Judge Walker’s exhaustive legal analysis showed that Proposition 8 was based on fear and prejudice for which there was no legitimate state interest.”

Redefining Marriage For 14 years, as states, courts and many Americans began to change their minds on the subject, the federal government has clung to its official definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman. On Thursday, a federal judge in Massachusetts finally stood up and said there was never a rational basis for that definition. Though we

interest" of the child is to have a loving family, regardless of the sexes of the family members. "The Supreme Court's decision is clear cut: prejudice should not interfere in guaranteeing family rights," Cano Nieto said. "The other states in Mexico should follow suit." With this decision, Mexico becomes the 11th country in the world to provide LGBT people equal access to marriage, along with the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Argentina. States including Iceland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom allow same-sex couples to adopt children jointly. Uruguay allows adoption by same-sex couples joined by a civil union. Denmark, Germany, and Norway permit one lesbian or gay partner to adopt the other's children.

The case is being appealed and will likely reach the US Supreme Court. In the Mexico case, the Supreme Court upheld a law that Mexico City’s legislators passed in December, 2009, allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Mexico’s highest court voted 8-2 in favor of the same-sex marriage provision. Later this week, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether same-sex marriages formed in Mexico City will be recognized across the country and whether same-sex couples can legally adopt children. The decision followed a legal challenge to Mexico City’s law. On the issue of same-sex adoption, Human Rights Watch said that all couples should be allowed to exercise their right under international law to form families. Human Rights Watch has urged Mexico to guarantee equality for same-sex couples and to recognize the existence of various types of families. Currently, same-sex marriages are legal in ten countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and Argentina. The California and Mexico decisions demonstrate the important role courts can play in protecting everyone’s right to equal protection and to be fee from discrimination under the law. Ultimately, however, it will be up to the government to ensure that these rights are respected both in policy and practice.

are a little wary of one path Judge Joseph L. Tauro took to declare the definition unconstitutional, the outcome he reached is long overdue. The definition is contained in the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. At the time, there was no legal same-sex marriage in the United States, but now five states and the District of Columbia issue licenses to all couples. Because of the


INTERNATIONAL NEWS federal law, thousands of couples in those states cannot receive the same federal benefits as opposite-sex couples, including Social Security survivor payments and spousal burials in national military cemeteries. There were two cases that came before Judge Tauro on this subject, allowing him to arrive at the same conclusion in two different ways. In one case, brought by Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general, the judge said the marriage act exceeded Congress’s powers and infringed on the state’s right to regulate marriage. This does not appear to be a legitimate basis for overturning the act. Many of the biggest federal social programs — including the new health care law — deal with marriages and families, as the Yale law professor Jack Balkin noted on Thursday, and states should not be given the right to supersede them. The judge made a better argument in the other case, brought by a gay rights group, that the marriage definition violates the equalprotection provisions of the Constitution. There is no rational basis for discriminating against same-sex couples, he ruled, discrediting the reasons stated by lawmakers in 1996, including the encouragement of “responsible procreation” and traditional notions of marriage and morality. In this argument, he was helped by the Obama administration’s obligatory but half-hearted defense of the

Anti-gays hide their bias behind the Bible

By LZ Granderson, Special to CNN June 2, 2010 Editor’s note: LZ Granderson is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and, and has contributed to ESPN's Sports Center, Outside the Lines and First Take. He is a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) award for online journalism as well as the 2008 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) winner for column writing. Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- My partner and I recently took our mothers to Las Vegas for a week for Mother's Day. It’s not our favorite city, but for a pair of 60-somethings who can sit at the penny slot machines for hours, it was heaven. When they were not being robbed by one-armed bandits, we saw a couple of shows and had some amazing dinners. We also enjoyed trying to figure out which women were hookers and which were just dressed like one. And of course saying “Public drunkenness” is pretty redundant after 11 a.m. But that’s why we go to Vegas, right? Life on the Strip. What happens here stays here ... and all that good stuff. By the end of our trip, the four of us had seen just about everything you would expect to see in a place nicknamed Sin City -- except for faith-based protesters. Funny, a week of walking up and down the main artery of the self-proclaimed heart of moral debauchery, and nary a Bible verse could be heard. In the many times I’ve been to Las Vegas over the years, I’ve never seen a religious protest. And yet let a midsize city try to add sexual orientation to its municipal nondiscrimination policy or a high school senior bring a same-gender date to prom, and you


law, which since last year no longer supports Congress’s stated reasons. Courts should generally give Congress wide deference in writing laws, but should not be afraid to examine them when challenged, to make sure they serve a legitimate purpose. The Defense of Marriage Act was passed and signed as an election-year wedge issue, and the brief debate leading up to it was full of bigoted attacks against homosexuality as “depraved” and “immoral.” One congressman said gay marriage would “devalue the love between a man and a woman.” Laws passed on this kind of basis deserve to be upended, and we hope Judge Tauro’s equal-protection opinion, which, for now, applies only to Massachusetts, is upheld on appeal. Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court actually predicted this moment would arrive when he dissented from the court’s 2003 decision to strike down antisodomy laws. That decision left laws prohibiting same-sex marriage “on pretty shaky grounds,” he warned, since it undercut the traditional moral basis for opposing homosexuality. The Justice Department cited those words when it abandoned its defense of the law as related to procreation, which, in turn, helped lead to Thursday’s decision. The process of justice can take years, but in this case it seems to be moving in the right direction.

would think it was the apocalypse. Where are the faith-based organizations trying to make adultery a crime punishable by death, as suggested in Leviticus 20:10? The Bible doesn’t state that one sin is greater than another, but you wouldn't know that by counting the number of comments that quote Scripture on news stories about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. Compare them with how many address murder, or the environment, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and well, the word “hypocrite” comes to mind. I am never ashamed to say I follow the teachings of Christ, but I am not always proud to say I am a Christian. That’s because I am bothered by the continual mutilation of my religion’s basic principle of love by the extremists in my religion who construct a hierarchy of sin -- which does not exist in the Bible -- for no other reason than to protect their own prejudices. We’ve seen this throughout this country's history, and perhaps with the exception of abortion, no current issue illustrates this transgression more so than gay rights. Some conservatives might attend church only twice a year, but ask their opinion about gays in the military. They can find Leviticus 18:22 blindfolded, handcuffed and sinking underwater: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination.” Rarely do you hear them mention the other "sexual sins" in Leviticus, such as making love to your wife while she's menstruating. There are some people who say Jesus freed us from the old laws with one side of their mouths while using old laws to condemn GLBT people with the other. Many turn to the destruction of Sodom as proof against homosexuality. But the King James version lists fornication, greed and lying as sins committed in Sodom as well, and never specifies which particu

INTERNATIONAL NEWS lar sin caused God's wrath. In fact, the word "Sodomite," which some like to toss around as an anti-gay insult, is a mistranslation and is not used in the original Hebrew text. The actual word is "kadesh," and it does not refer to the city, its inhabitants or a specific sexual act. It refers to the occult male prostitutes in the shrines, just as "kedesha" refers to the female equivalent. Neither word reflects sexual orientation. It may be convenient to say Sodom was all about homosexual people, but historically and scripturally, that isn't accurate. This is why I, like so many other Christians, do not follow a literal interpretation of the Bible. I'm not ducking Leviticus, I'd just rather go directly to the source. Concepts get lost in translation, and we all know history is filled with influential people and institutions that have defined religion for the masses based upon their own selfish needs. For example, King Henry VIII, the man who authorized the first English translation of the Bible, was married six times and essentially had the British Empire separate from the Roman Catholic Church so he could divorce in peace. Then there's King James, whose own writings suggest he was secretly gay or bisexual, according to historians such as Michael B. Young and Caroline Bingham. He was directed to marry for the sake of the throne before authorizing the version of the Bible that swapped "kadesh" for "Sodomite" in the first place. Hmm, where have we heard that story -- closeted gay politician with an anti-gay policy -- before?

But theology and history aside, it is clear from the lack of consistent reaction to and organization against the litany of other present-day sins that a large number of people who call themselves Christians do not follow the literal interpretation of the Bible either. So, if some of us are picking and choosing which Bible verses to follow, why are so many opting to pick and choose verses that appear to condemn homosexuality and not the one against marrying a woman who isn't a virgin? If sin is sin, why such Christian angst directed at the GLBT community and not the greedy corporate community, which, quite frankly, has more direct impact on the average person's life? The answer is simple: Those who are uncomfortable or fearful of someone who is different from them sometimes hide behind religion to gain power, nurture their ignorance and justify their prejudices. It's no different from Christian slave owners using Scriptures to feel better about enslaving Africans, or men pointing to Jezebel as a way to keep women out of the clergy, or Bob Jones University picking verses that supported the school's ban on interracial dating. The extremists aren't fighting gay rights because of sin and honoring Leviticus 18:22. If they were, then where are the faith-based organizations spending millions trying to make adultery a crime punishable by death, as suggested in Leviticus 20:10? Is 18:22 more true than 20:10, or does it just support a more common and entrenched prejudice? The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

up by straight parents. Researchers at the University of California followed 78 children born to lesbian mothers from birth to the age of 17. They also found the children were less likely than those with straight parents to behave aggressively or break rules. The mothers were asked to rate their children on their behaviour, aggression and school marks, while the teenagers were rated with the Child Behavior Checklist, a standardised assessment. Each teenager also filled out an internet-based psychological questionnaire.

Children of lesbian couples ‘have fewer behaviour problems’

Study leader Nanette Gartrell said: "Contrary to assertions from people opposed to same-sex parenting, we found that the 17-yearolds scored higher in psychological adjustment in areas of competency and lower in problem behaviours than the normative age-matched sample of kids raised in traditional families with a mum and a dad." "These are not accidental children," she told WebMD Health News. "The mums tended to be older and attended parenting classes. They were very involved in the process of education [for their children]." "They anticipated their kids would experience stigmatisation."

By Jessica Geen • June 8, 2010 - 10:59 A 17-year study into families headed by lesbian parents has found that their children have fewer behavioural problems, get better results and are more psychologically sound than children brought

The study did find that children who experienced homophobia had higher levels of depression and anxiety. Knowing their biological father made no impact on children's happiness and behaviour.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS A number of previous studies have found that children of gay and lesbian parents are as happy, or happier, than their peers brought up by straight parents.

The Adoption and Children Act, which came into force in December 2005, gave gay couples and unmarried straight couples the right to jointly adopt children.

Last year, a study of 1,384 couples, 155 of whom were gay, found that as parents, their sexuality made "no significant difference" on the levels of emotional problems experienced by their children.

Lesbians undergoing IVF treatment can now record their partner as the second parent on the birth certificate.

Acehnese Gays Face a Climate of Fear and Abuse Dewi Kurniawati | August 18, 2010 Banda Aceh. It doesn’t take much to notice “Echa,” a transvestite who lives in Banda Aceh. With his masculine figure and flamboyant make-up, he instantly draws attention. And so does the fact that he is wearing a short dress with a plunging neckline to one of the city’s popular coffee houses instead of a headscarf and other conservative Muslim attire. Of course, Echa is a man so he poses a dilemma for the morality police. His baritone laugh echoed through the coffee shop when a reporter asked about the absence of a headscarf. “The Shariah Police are confused about what they want to do with me. I am enjoying my freedom,” he said. That freedom has to be struggled for daily, however. Echa is the executive director of Violet Grey, a nongovernmental organization that provides assistance to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents of Aceh. In a country where homosexuality is taboo and where many Indonesians still refuse to acknowledge gay people, it’s especially challenging for an organization such as Violet Grey to operate in Aceh, which is allowed to implement partial Shariah law. Continuously living in the shadows, gays, lesbians, and crossdressers are seen as a disgrace to the province’s self-proclaimed “religious society.” Not surprisingly they suffer frequent discrimination and often abusive treatment. “We were born as Muslim, as Acehnese. Is it true that we are not part of Islam?” asked “Toni,” a gay activist and member of Violet Grey. “In Aceh, the implementation of Shariah touches on symbols such as headscarves or changing street names to Arabic letters without really addressing people’s desires of prosperity and justice. I think we are in the process of Talibanization.” Toni grew into his homosexual identity when he was studying at an Islamic boarding school at the age of 14. “I thought by studying in a pesantren [Islamic boarding school] , it would cure my homosexuality.” He was wrong. “In an Islamic boarding school, where life is segregated by gender, I met my first love,” he said, laughing. Toni added that when Islamic boarding schools separate boys from girls as a way to prevent promiscuity, it actually enables some boys to discover their homosexual identity.


“Because of this segregation, aside from finding our sexual orientation, we were also sexually abused by our classmates, seniors and even teachers,” Toni said. “That is why the rape of boys is not considered a huge issue compared to [the rape of ] girls here in Aceh.” Shariah, which is obsessed with keeping unmarried men and women apart, at first ignored homosexuality here. The province’s Qanun, a local Islamic bylaw implemented in 2003, forbids illicit sexual relations between men and women. Homosexuality was not mentioned, so the gay community actually found a safe haven within the bylaw. However, homosexuality was specifically addressed in a contentious revised provincial bylaw, or Qanun Jinayat, that was passed by the provincial legislature in October 2009. The bylaw, which Governor Irwandi Yusuf has refused to sign and officials in Jakarta have asked to be withdrawn, would punish homosexuals with 100 cane lashes. The bylaw also says adulterers should be stoned to death. “I hope the Qanun Jinayat will never be implemented, because that means there is no more room for us,” said “Faishal,” another member of Violet Grey. Whatever the law says, Violet Grey claims that homosexuals and transsexuals have been repeatedly harassed and intimidated by Shariah police officers. In one infamous case in 2007, a local gay man named Hartoyo was abused by Shariah Police officers after a raid on his house, sparking widespread public anger. Hartoyo and his partner were told to strip naked and then were beaten by police officers. They were released two days later after being instructed to sign a statement agreeing to stop homosexual behavior. Hartoyo reported the incident to the National Commission for Human Rights. “The case was closed and the police officers who tortured him only got minor punishments,” Echa said. In the wake of that case, Aceh’s gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transexuals are finding it harder to gain basic rights. “Most transsexuals work in beauty salons, but even there, the Shariah police wouldn’t allow them to touch women because we are considered men,” Echa said.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS Marzuki Abdullah, head of the provincial Shariah Police force, said that homosexuality is forbidden in Aceh, despite the absence of a local bylaw. “We don’t want to see transvestites standing on the street,” Marzuki said. “We consider them men, and they should dress accordingly.” There are currently 6,300 Shariah Police officers patrolling Aceh’s towns and villages on the lookout for “immorality,” which keeps the gay and lesbian community hiding in the shadows.

However, the members of Violet Grey haven’t lost their resolve. “We just want to be acknowledged as human beings. We are Acehnese and we are also Muslim, so please respect our basic rights,” Echa pleaded. Toni added: “We were born Acehnese and we love Aceh. We won’t leave just because of the Shariah Law.” Courtesy Jakarta Globe

them at their doorstep. “Some of the defaulters are so wary of us that they pay the outstanding amount in the form of cheques the moment they see us or they promise to come over to the CBC and pay the next day,” says Bebo. People at the ‘giving’ end are not too happy with this new arrangement. “We are willing to pay the dues, but these transgenders have created a problem for the area,” says Dr Qayoom Malik, a resident of Phase II, DHA. “They dance and shout at our doors, which I think is quite unethical.”

A transgender team walks out of the Clifton Cantonment Board office on their way to persuade yet another defaulter to pay their taxes. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

If you’re a defaulter and you know it, clap your hands KARACHI: The very reason why society shuns them is now being used to bring them back into the fold. This is what the transgendered people of Karachi discovered when a few of them got jobs with the Clifton Cantonment Board helping it recover unpaid taxes by shaming the defaulters. “Our frequent visits to the defaulters have led people to pay on time,” says 35-year-old Rimsha, who works for the CBC’s revenue generation department. The CBC is happy with the results as well. “We have generated around Rs8.7 million within six months,” says Aziz Suharwardy, an official looking after the transgender project at the board. “They are hard workers and we have been witnessing positive results.” The CBC had initially appointed six transgenders on a three-month probation period at a salary of Rs10,500. But the project was such a success that five more people were added to the team. Suharwardy expects that after their probation period they will get permanent jobs. They are divided into two teams and each team deals with as many as 10 to 15 cases per day. They have documents, including copies of bills and court notices. If there is no response after they visit a defaulter the third time, the matter officially goes to court. The team talks openly about the reactions they get from people who make no attempt to conceal their displeasure when they see

In a bid to equalise their status in society, the Supreme Court gave a landmark ruling in July last year saying that they too had citizenship rights. “When I came to Karachi, I never thought that we would be given equal rights,” says 25-year-old Bebo who left her home in Shikarpur 10 years ago to look for a job in the metropolis. She used to work as a hairstylist at a salon for Rs5,000 a month. She had to accept this meagre salary even though she is a graduate. Now, with her 11 co-workers, she works hard at her new government job. “This job has really enhanced our social status and now we have a major stake in making decisions within our family,” says Hasina. Bebo, Hasina and Rimsha all have one thing in common – many people are hesitant to interact with them. Though they worked in different places, they share similar experiences of exploitation and castigation. Despite the new, respectable job, Hasina says life is hard for her. She is treated badly on the bus and on the street. “Even with government employment, life on the street hasn’t changed much.” In order to mitigate some of this stress while on the job, the CBC’s revenue chief Mohammed Ali has provided them an escort. “They normally go with one official from the revenue department and sometimes, security guards as well,” he adds. According to Sarah Gill, of the Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA), herself a medical student at Jinnah Medical and Dental College, there are around 15,000 transgenders in the city and out of which 3,500 are registered. According to her, the Sindh government’s social welfare department is creating a problem with their registration, otherwise most of them are willing to come forward. “There is no employment quota for them,” she points out. Bringing them on the radar will mean that more of them could seek help with jobs as otherwise no one is ready to gainfully employ them. Many transgenders eke out an existence with menial house jobs and it is not uncommon for them to be forced into prostitution.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS Following the directives of the Supreme Court, the CBC had asked GIA to help with the appointment of a team. “Now five more of us have been inducted by the Faisal Base Cantonment and the Sindh industries minister has also assured us that 20 of our colleagues will be given jobs,” says Gill.

Thus, despite the irony that they are using public embarrassment as a weapon, this group of plucky transgenders aren’t ashamed to look forward to a regular paycheque and a little clout.

Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell claims: Pope cover up of gay Cardinal Newman

not, however, alter a person's orientation. A person can be gay and sublimate their gayness into spiritual and other non-sexual relations and pursuits.

London - 16 September 2010

This Sunday, Pope Benedict will make a saint of the nineteenth century English theologian, Cardinal John Henry Newman, while denying the strong evidence that Newman was gay and loved Father Ambrose St John. The Pope's sainting of Newman will take place near Birmingham, England, on Sunday, during his current Papal tour of Britain. "Newman and St John were mentally and spiritually in love; sharing a long-term same-sex relationship. They were inseparable. They lived together for over 30 years, like a married husband and wife," said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has studied the evidence of Newman's homosexual orientation. See here: ver&dq=Alan+Bray,+The+Friend&lr=&as_brr=0&ei=YYi2SNrXCJWyyQ SXuZSGBw&sig=ACfU3U3yK482o_HYMtOEdWS5WlnllgqrmQ#PPA290, M1 "Newman wrote in his diary about Ambrose's love for him: 'From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable.' He later added: 'As far as this world was concerned, I was his first and last,'" added Mr Tatchell. "Newman also stated that St John had come to him as the angel Raphael came to Tobias, as Ruth to Naomi. "Reflecting on St John's death, Newman stated: 'This is the greatest affliction I have had in my life....he was my earthly light.'


Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2010.

"Ahead of making Newman a saint, the Vatican has sought to suppress knowledge of Newman's relationship with St John. Last year, against Newman's wishes, it ordered that his grave be dug up, in order to separate the two men and to turn Newman's bones into holy relics. However, the grave was empty. His remains had fully decomposed. The Vatican's heartless plans were thwarted by nature. "This homophobic desecration of Newman's grave and the denial of Newman's gayness is entirely consistent with the Vatican's long-standing cover up of its many past and present gay priests, bishops, cardinals and popes. Pope Benedict has a well-known anti-gay agenda. He is too bigoted to concede that Newman loved a man. "Newman was, of course, unaware that he might one day achieve sainthood. But he was mindful that the church might, after his death, seek to intervene in determining the placement of his remains. Although a modest man, he was conscious of his international status as a Cardinal and an esteemed Catholic theologian. He feared there might be attempts after he died to transfer his body to a mausoleum. That is why Newman three times added notes to his instructions to his executors which, according to the scholarship of the Christian historian Alan Bray, variously "confirm", "insist" and "command" that he be buried with St John. ver&dq=Alan+Bray,+The+Friend&lr=&as_brr=0&ei=YYi2SNrXCJWyyQ SXuZSGBw&sig=ACfU3U3yK482o_HYMtOEdWS5WlnllgqrmQ#PPA290 ,M1 "Nothing could be clearer. Newman was absolutely insistent that he should be buried forever alongside the man with whom he shared his life, home and love.

"Newman and St John were buried side-by-side in the same grave when Newman died in 1890. It was what Newman wanted. He wrote to his executors shortly before his death stating emphatically: 'I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Father Ambrose St John's grave and I give this as my last, my imperative will.'

"The Pope's spin doctors have gone out of their way to rubbish claims that Newman was gay. He was a cardinal and deeply devout, they say; claiming that such a person would never have a gay relationship. This is nonsense. Thousands of Catholic priests, and even some bishops and cardinals, are gay and have active same-sex relationships.

"It is impossible to know whether the relationship between Newman and St John involved a sexual dimension. Equally, it is impossible to be certain that it did not. There is no proof that Newman was heterosexual or that he abstained from sex. The Pope cannot substantiate these claims.

"The Catholic hierarchy denies Newman's homosexuality in the same way that it denies the existence of thousands of gay clerics and in the same way that it has lied about sex abusing priests and has covered up their crimes against children.

"To err on the side of caution, it is likely that both men had a gay orientation but chose to abstain from sex. Sexual abstinence does

"The Vatican is well known for lying and suppressing the truth. It lied, for example, in its anti-safe sex propaganda which claimed that condoms have tiny holes through which the HIV virus can pass.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS "The lies and denials about Newman should be treated with the same contempt. "Although we cannot know for certain, it is not unreasonable to believe that Cardinal Newman might have had a loving, stable, long-term same-sex relationship. The passion of his letters and writings about Ambrose suggest this possibility. "Down the ages, lots of clergy have had gay relationships. Indeed, at least a quarter of the current Catholic priesthood is estimated to be gay. Many are in long-term gay relationships. Why should anyone be surprised by the suggestion that Cardinal Newman might have had a same-sex relationship? It would not be extraordinary. It is fairly normal in the priesthood.

relations and close friendships with women did not feature at all in his life," said Mr Tatchell. Perhaps we should look to Newman's memorial stone at Birmingham Oratory for clues. It has an inscription that could be read as a posthumous coming out concerning their relationship: "Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem" (from shadow and images into truth) Some people say that Newman's body lying in a grave with the body of Father Ambrose reveals the truth about their love and relationship.

"Newman was not exactly macho. His soft, gentle, effeminate demeanour is typical of what we often associate with some gay men (and some straight men too). There were allegations during his lifetime about his circle of young homosexual friends. Platonic

ROTARY REACHES ‘OUT’! On July 19th 2010, the Executive Director of EQUAL GROUND, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera was invited to speak at the Rotary luncheon for Colombo’s Midtown Rotarians. Rosanna spoke of “Being LGBT at work and the consequences of discrimination and marginalization in the workplace”. On 23rd August 2010, Rosanna was invited by the Uptown Rotarians to make a similar presentation. Her presentation “Closets are for clothes - addressing the wider and unaddressed issues of sexuality; in the home and in the workplace” touched on the issues faced by LGBTIQ persons at work and at home.

STEPP Both Rotary Chapters were well represented at both presentations and Rosanna was inundated with Questions and comments during the Q & A sessions that followed the presentations.


After a few months’ hiatus, Self Defense Classes will begin again on 16th September 2010. Martial Arts Expert Dushantha will give us tips on how to defend ourselves if attacked and make us sweat and lose weight as well! Venue: EQUAL GROUND LGBTIQ Center in Colombo Time: 6.00PM Date: 16th September and thereafter every Thursday of the month A nominal fee of Rs.150/- per participant will be charged to offset Dushnatha’s travel costs.

STEPPING OUT for parents of children with alternate sexual orientations and gender identities


Available at

A 09


Colombo PRIDE 2010


CELEBRATING PRIDE IN SRI LANKA This year Colombo PRIDE 2010 reached new heights! It was a month long celebration of diversity and community building and we are happy to report that all our events were well attended. PRIDE began on the 11th June 2010 with a 2 day Youth Conference which had participants from all over the country participating in the residential workshop entitled “Live and Let Live: Respecting Gender and Sexuality”. The key note speaker for the event was Kemone Brown, a young Jamaican Lesbian activist who currently Cape Town, Volume 4 -resides Issue 2 -in October 2010 South Africa. Launching Colombo PRIDE 2010 in earnest was the dazzling, foot stomping extravaganza – RAINBOW RUNWAY. Designers both new and established designed with the Queer community in mind. The show was a mixture of catwalk and entertainment which had the audience on their feet in appreciation! Cast, crew and designers volunteered their time and efforts for the show and we are ever so grateful to them. Since everyone was in a party mood after the show, the Rainbow Pride party came next on our events calendar. A house full crowd had a fabulous time and rocked till it was time to go home! The British High Commission screened the hard hitting documentary –

Beyond Gay: the politics of pride. A reception followed. The British Council was the venue this year for the Art & Photo Exhibition and the Film Festival. This year Rainbow Visions included many new artistes who exhibited at PRIDE for the first time. Celluloid Rainbows featured the Sinhala Movie ‘Akasa Kusum’ and we were fortunate to have Director Prasanna Vithanage and actress Samanalee Fonseka with us for a Q & A session after the movie. The last weekend of PRIDE month saw the staging of “Leave a light on for me”, Nihal Senarathna’s debut screenplay and the Rainbow Kite Festival on the beach at Mt. Lavinia. This year we are proud to say, Colombo PRIDE 2010 received an unprecedented media response which made LGBTIQ issues the hot topic of conversation in Sri Lanka for many, many weeks. It has also prompted, for the first time, the government (via the Prime Minister) to openly say that they are willing to speak to the LGBTIQ community about equality. We are especially proud of these results this year and it gives us the hope and strength to push through for the eventual decriminalization of homosexuality in Sri Lanka and a better life for all our LGBTIQ brothers and sisters.

fld<U wNsudkh 2010 yd iu.dój Blaj,a .%jqkaâ yd tlaj wm bÈßm;a l< kdgH o¾Ykh w;sYh id¾:lj ksud ùu iïnkaOj kdgH rpl f,i udf.a yDoHdx.u ia;=;sh ud yd tlaj lghq;= l< ish,a,kagu mqo lsÍu udf.a j.lSula hehs is;ñ' tys ish¨u f.!rjhka udi lsysmhla mqrd uy;a lemùfuka lghq;= l< tA yd iïnkaO jQ ish,a,kagu ,eìh hq;= hehs ud wjxlj is;ñ' Ôú;fha tla tla ikaêia:dk lrd fjka fjkaj msh uksk wm tla wjia:djloS tlg tlaj l, lghq;a; id¾:l ùu uy;a Nd.Hhla hehs ud is;ñ' kuq;a l=ulafoda wjdikdjlg th t;rï myiq lghq;a;la fkdjqks' tA i|yd n,dfmdfrd;a;= rys; f,i fjfyfikakg;a" fndfyda wjia:dj,§ wmyiq;djhkag ,lajkakg;a ud yg isÿjqks' tfy;a tA ish,a,lau wu;l lrkakg ud yg yelshdjla ,enqfKa kdgHh wjidkfha ,enQ m%;spdrhka oelSfuks' ud fukau fuhg iyNd.S jQ ish,a,kagu ud yd iudk w;aoelSula wjidkfha ú¢kakg yels jQjd we;ehs ud is;ñ' ug th yqfola tla;rd kdgHhla muKlau fkdj ud bka fndfyda foa udf.a Ôú;hg Wlyd .;af;ñ' ud fukau wka who ñka ,nd.;a foa ish ðú; ;=,g we;+¿ lr .kakjd we;ehs ud is;ñ' tfukau th ish Ôjk .uka uf.a úúO wjia:dj,§ m%fhdackhg .kq we;ehs o ud is;ñ' kdgH ms<sn|j ;j ÿrg;a hula mejiSug ud yg we;ehs ud fkdis;ñ' ukao fma%laIld.drfha isá tla wfhla ud yd mejiqfõ ’wmg lshkakg ;snqK yeu fohlau fï kdgHfhka lshjqkd¶ hkqfjks' bka uu iEySulg m;afjñ' ug wjYH jQfhao ud n,dfmdfrd;a;= jQfhao thhs' wjidkfha fu;=,ska wm okakd mqoa.,hkaf.a lsisod fkdÿgq yelshdjka rdYshla t,s oelaùug uyÕ= wjia:djla Wod jQjd hehs ud is;ñ' ;j o u;= hï oji tA yelshdjka fkdis§ wkd.;h lrd úúO biõ ;=<ska t<s olajkjd we;ehs o ud is;ñ' fndfyda ieÕjQ yelshdjkaf.ka msßmqka jQ tu ;reK fldgia j,g ish Ôú;j, wfkal jQ ÿla fodïkia wu;l lr oud tla wruqKla fjkqfjka lem jkakg;a" wjidkfha bka uy;a wd;au ;Dma;shla ,Õd lr .ekSug;a Tjqkag WmldÍ ùu iïnkaOj ud ;=< ishqï wdvïnrhla we;' ksyd,a fiakdr;ak'



CELEBRATING PRIDE IN SRI LANKA 11th June 2010 – 11th July 2010 marks PRIDE month in Sri Lanka. Historically stemming from the watershed Stonewall riots in 1969, which broke out when police raided a gay bar in New York City, it has now evolved into a global celebration of diversity. In recent years the South Asian region has become a prominent feature in PRIDE celebrations. For example in the cities of Delhi, Bangalore, Calcutta, Mumbai, LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning) persons together with their heterosexual allies march the streets peacefully demanding they be recognised equally before the law. A year has now passed since India decriminalised homosexuality during PRIDE month by reading down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalised ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ after an arduous and highly publicised 10 year campaign. Closer to home, PRIDE month now in its 6th consecutive year aims to raise awareness about the issues faced by the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka and, to also celebrate diversity in Sri Lanka. One such event Rainbow Runway 2010 brought into the spotlight this hugely invisible community in Sri Lanka. Whilst the show was a colourful, fierce and strong representation of fashion and creativity the community that it represented remained all over Sri Lanka, unaware of a bold step forward demanding equal treatment before the law. Produced by EQUAL GROUND , the show opened with a plea by Executive Director, Rosanna Flamer Caldera to the Sri Lankan Government to emulate India and read down section 365A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code which effectively makes the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka criminals for being themselves. In response to the requests made at the Fashion Show, Prime Minister D. M Jayarathna told an English daily newspaper that, “It is not wrong for them to seek rights. But we must know what exactly they want. They should communicate that to us and then we will see if it hurts our culture and take a decision accordingly.” He further stated that the Sri Lankan Government was open to dialogue with the gay community and the necessity to clarify what sort of “equal rights” they seek. In response to these statements EQUAL GROUND1 together with 2 other The issues concerning the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka are largely unspoken about. This is due to a complex intersectionality of social and legal issues existing not only in Sri Lanka but in many South Asian countries. Section 365 of the Sri Lankan Penal Code (now amended to 365A) criminalised same sex activity between adults, whether consensual or not. The issue concerning the LGBTIQ community is distinctly different, understanding the inherent need for equal treatment before the law. It is one of consensual sex between persons of the same sex, in private. In 1995, an attempt to repeal this law resulted in section 365 being amended thereby bringing lesbians into the ambit of the law and its criminalisation, on the grounds that the existing law applicable to men only, was gender biased. It is perhaps arguable that few cases are actually prosecuted under 365A, and thus the existing law does not discriminate on those grounds. It is strongly submitted that none should be prosecuted under this draconian law. The mere existence of the law, leaves


ample room for human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity to be common place. Violence and harassments in all forms present themselves to LGBTIQ individuals in Sri Lanka on a daily basis. Unfortunately the perpetrators of such violations are not reported due to a multitude of reasons, for instance the fear of the victim’s sexual orientation, something which they have not yet particularly come to terms with, being public knowledge. Furthermore, when persons within positions of authority perpetrate such gross violations the impunity validates this treatment of LGBTIQ individuals which drives them further underground. Many organisations presently working in this field constantly grapple with issues, whilst for instance a safe space or psycho social support can be provided, protections can only be put into place minimally due to the lack of legal recourse. Protecting identities is prioritised over seeking, if any, recourse at the victim’s request which leaves organisations frustrated with the existing system. From an International Law perspective, it is a clear that criminalising same sex conduct between consenting adults automatically carves out a group for discriminatory treatment. Many argue that the act of ‘sodomy’ that is criminalised and explicitly stated, yet it is submitted here that the immediate carving out of a separate group based on a conduct associated with them in some instances together with interpretation by national courts discriminates not only the conduct but the group, in this instance LGBTIQ persons.2 This is lies in contradiction that all Human Rights are universal, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.3 From a health perspective, healthcare professionals ignorant and insensitive to persons of varying sexual orientations and gender identities are numerous, whilst this is grossly negligent it also impedes significantly the basic human right of enjoyment of the highest attainable level of health. The LGBTIQ community battles with hospitals and clinics that misdiagnose, mistreat or entirely deny proper medical care to LGBTIQ persons. Some medical professionals even claim it is a treatable mental and physical disturbance and extort LGBTIQ persons in a state of distress about their sexuality promising to avail them not only of the so called disease but also the consequential problems that arise within family units. A recent report4 by Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur for Health states that the criminalisation of same sex behaviour between consenting adults is an impediment to attaining the highest attainable level of health but also because it infringes on other Human Rights namely the right to equality and privacy. Respecting or celebrating diversity is not a westernisation. This is epitomised in the Delhi High Court’s Judgement, India’s Stonewall, in June 2009 which decriminalised homosexuality. Firstly, India truly embodies grand characteristics of a Democracy. The Constitution is viewed as a living document and is interpreted to include the LGBTIQ community based on evidence presented to the Court, one that is subject to change when mandated by the people the Constitution serves. Further it is argued that whilst a majority may not be in favour of LGBTIQ community for whichever reason, it is not a reason to exclude them and strip them of rights. Secondly, India being one of the worlds culturally and religiously diverse countries, views the issue secularly which ironically results in the small religious minority groups that opposed

RECIPES decriminalisation, being protected by the effects of the decriminalisation. Lastly, the issue is viewed as one of minority rights and its effect, the horizontal application of rights has had an impact of great significance to minority groups in India. Looking towards the future, much needs to be accomplished. The movement in Sri Lanka is almost 20 years old and it has certainly moved at a slow and steady pace forward. It is intended that PRIDE and the advocacy work done not only by the gay movement in Sri Lanka, but also in tandem with the civil society organisations and partner government organisations that the community is afforded rights that are undeniable. Decriminalisation of section 365A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code is crucial. The dignity afforded to those who are able to live in their own country as a citizen and not a criminal is 1 EQUAL GROUND is a non profit organization operating in Sri Lanka for approximately 6 years. It’s mission is to seek “EQUALITY FOR ALL SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS AND GENDER IDENTITIES: HUMAN organisations with similar mandates have written to the Premier and sought an appointment to discuss the matter further.

invaluable from all perspectives. Further, the right to seek and attain the highest level of Health without prejudice is undeniable. Finally inclusion into already existing legal frameworks for instance, anti discriminatory laws and protections from violence would afford the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka a considerable step forward to living full lives. However, whilst legal recourse is the tangible yet immediate need in Sri Lanka, what is more challenging is the shift necessary in the attitudes and the consequential treatment of society towards the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka that will eventually mandate the peaceful integration of the LGBTIQ community into an appreciated, supported and valued group of a Sri Lankan identity. by Arthi Dharmadasa for Groundviews

Other International Instruments include the Preamble of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 1 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, Article 1 (4) of the Arab Charter on Human Rights and Article 19 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.


Report of the Special Rapporteur Anand Grover on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health - 27 April 2010


It is further submitted that if this was not the case, all persons engaging in carnal intercourse ie anal sex and/or oral sex whether heterosexual or homosexual would in fact be criminals. It is clear that the law was designed and intended to target homosexuals. 2

Six everyday foods to increase immunity it’s always good to boost immunity to avoid nasty colds and the flu. We give you the low-down on six immune-boosting foods.

1. Lemons and other citrus fruit Citrus fruit – including lemons, oranges and grapefruit – are rich in vitamin C which boosts your immune system. The juice of a lemon contains around 30mg vitamin C, and the peel (or zest) has another 10-20mg.

Why? Ensuring your diet has plenty of healthy foods rich in vitamin C can help reduce the length and severity of a cold if you get one. Vitamin C helps the body to produce white blood cells as well as antibodies – both keep the immune system fighting invading viruses. Don’t, however, wait until you have a cold before you top up! Vitamin C can be helpful as a preventative measure, so you need to keep your body stocked up all winter.

Easy ways to include citrus in your diet Squeeze lemon or any citrus fruit into a mug and top up with hot water. A great immune booster and delicious hot drink any time of the day. Make yourself a delicious lemon and garlic hummus. Blend a can of chickpeas, juice of two lemons, one garlic clove and a splash of olive oil for a healthy grainy cracker topping or a tasty sandwich filler. Lemon is fabulous on fish (another food great for our health). Aim for at least two fish meals a week and have lemons at the ready to squeeze on flavoursome goodness.



2. Eggs

diets, two to three red meat meals a week is ideal. Remember, go for lean varieties of meat, trim any fat off, and avoid adding too much extra fat when cooking.

Why? An adequate amount of iron is important to keep your body healthy and working at its best. Iron also helps to keep the immune system working at its best. There are limits, however. More isn’t always better as too much iron can actually suppress the immune system. So stick to iron-rich foods rather than reaching for supplements. Iron supplements should only be taken under the advice of your GP.

Easy ways to include red meat in your diet Try making meatballs with lean mince, onion and garlic in a tomato-based sauce. Serve with spaghetti and heaps of green veges. Take any leftover meatballs for the next day’s lunch with salad and pita bread. Revive the Sunday ‘roast’ night – roast a lean cut of beef or lamb. Extra meat will be useful for week lunches in a salad or sandwich.

Not only are eggs a source of protein and iron, they also contain vitamin A – a fat-soluble vitamin which is important for the immune system. Liver, dairy products and oily fish are other sources of vitamin A.

Grill lean rump steak and leave to rest for two to three minutes. Slice on the diagonal and serve over mixed salad greens, sliced cucumber and capsicum with a garlic and Thai chilli-style dressing.

Why? Vitamin A has important antioxidant properties and helps keep the cells which fight bacteria and viruses working at their best.

Easy ways to include eggs in your diet Have eggs for breakfast. Try poached eggs on toast with a few slices of smoked salmon and spinach to set you up for the week end!

Tip If you don’t eat meat, be sure to eat plenty of nuts, eggs, beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables and cereals with added iron.

4. Oats and other whole grains

An omelette makes a delicious, quick and healthy dinner. Make with eggs, onions, mushrooms, courgettes and spinach. Serve with a salad and boiled potatoes. Add boiled eggs to your lunch – bring back the egg sandwich or salad. And if you need to go outside to eat it, all the better for that dose of sunshine!

3. Lean red meat

Red meat is well known as an incredible source of the mineral iron. The iron in red meat is called haem iron, which is a form that can be easily absorbed by the body. For those who include meat in their


Oats and other whole grain cereals like wheat, rye, barley and brown rice provide important B vitamins such as vitamin B6, pantothenoic acid and folic acid. These vitamins support the immune system. Including whole grains every day can help supply the body with the B vitamins it needs as well as providing a valuable source of fibre and other nutrients needed for good health.



6. Nuts

B vitamins can not only help the body fight off bacteria and viruses, but they can also help your immune system fight back when you are unwell. B vitamins are water soluble and can’t be stored in the body. For this reason, aim to include whole grains every day.

Easy ways to include grains in your diet Start your day with oats. Make porridge with trim milk and top with berries and chopped nuts. Serve your stir-fries on brown rice – it has a fabulous nutty flavour and makes a great healthy change to standard long-grain white rice. Try a new grain such as bulgar wheat or pearl barley. These can be used to make fantastic salads and are a great addition to soups and casseroles.

5. Seafood

Nuts not only have immune-boosting power from zinc, iron and the B vitamins, but also have the added value of being sources of other vitamins and minerals which support the immune system. All nuts are good and they have different benefits: Brazil nuts are rich in selenium; almond and peanuts are good sources of vitamin E. To get the best from nuts, choose a variety.

Why? The nutritional goodness in nuts helps support the immune system as a whole – they are a good addition to everyday eating.

Easy ways to include nuts in your diet Add a tablespoon of chopped Brazil nuts, walnuts and almonds to your breakfast cereal or porridge. Make nuts your snack – but remember, nuts are high in kilojoules, so if you are watching your weight, stick to a quarter of a cup or less.

Shellfish, including oysters, mussels and scallops, are great sources of zinc. Squid, prawns and other fish including salmon also have some zinc. (Lean red meat is another fantastic source; low-fat dairy products, whole grains, beans and nuts are other sources.)

Sprinkle chopped nuts on your salads, stir-fries or curries. Unsalted varieties are best.

Why? The mineral zinc has a vital role when it comes to immunity. Zinc helps ensure the white blood cells which help the body to fight infection are able to work at their best. Getting enough zinc through the diet can keep the body working at its best, but as with iron, too much can suppress the immune system – so food is the best way to get the zinc you need.

Easy ways to include seafood in your diet Oysters are in season – enjoy them raw with a squeeze of lemon and some grainy bread. Mussels are cheap and tasty. Steam in a large pot with wine and garlic until they open, remove from shells and toss with pasta, tomatoes, parsley and olive oil. Have seafood meals twice a week. Add prawns, squid or salmon to your stir-fry instead of your usual chicken.

‘AKASA KUSUM’ TRANSGENDER CLUB The ‘Akasa Kusum’ Transgender Club meets every month for socializing, skills building etc. If you wish to be a part of ‘AKASA KUSUM’ you are welcome to join us each month.




Stir-Fried Chicken with Gingered Vegetables

wooden spoon, until the chicken begins to brown. Turn off the heat and transfer the chicken to a plate. 3. Blanch the broccoli in the boiling water until the stems just begin to get tender, about 1 or 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Ingradient 1/2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, about 6 ounces, sliced into strips salt to taste freshly ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil 1/2 cup broccoli florets 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil 1/2 clove garlic, peeled 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 1/3 cup sliced carrots 1/3 cup peas 1/4 large red bell pepper, sliced into strips Dry chili pieces 1 teaspoon rice vinegar or sherry vinegar 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce

Cooking Instructions 1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. 2. Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook, tossing with a

4. Add the oil and garlic cloves to the wok. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the garlic is fragrant and lightly golden. Remove the garlic, add the ginger and cook for another minute. 5. Turn the heat to high, add the carrots and cook, tossing with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes. Add the peas, red peppers and Chili Pieces, continue tossing with the spoon and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chicken, broccoli, vinegar and soy sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Serve immediately over a bed of rice. Serving Size: about 2 1/2 cups of chicken and vegetables

Nutrition Information Number of Servings: 1 Per Serving  Calories  Carbohydrate  Fat  Fiber  Protein  Saturated Fat  Sodium

200 13 g 7g 4g 22 g 1g 268 mg

First South Asian Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Conference


LB CONFERANCE The First ever South Asian Lesbian and Bisexual women’s conference was held at the Renuka Hotel in Colombo at the end of July 2010. This was preceded by a 2 day training workshop on Security and alternative organizing. Activists from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka participated in this historical conference. EQUAL GROUND’s Executive Director was instrumental in putting together this conference and training, giving the women valuable tools to enhance their activities and activism in their own countries. The training programs were conducted by Georges Azzi and Sally Shalabi from Lebanon and Jordan who lent their expertise on Security and alternative organizational skills. Facilitators for the Conference included members of the Women’s Support Group (WSG), EQUAL GROUND, and the Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality. EQUAL GROUND was pleased that Hon. Justice Shiranee Thilakawardene agreed to be the keynote speaker for the event. Her presentation on the law on Human Rights and Equality and the implication of the criminalization of the law based on the Naz Foundation case of the High court of New Delhi was riveting and much appreciated by the women in the audience. It was not all work and no fun as the women were treated to evenings’ entertainment by the WSG and EQUAL GROUND. The results of the conference were promising and a network of South Asian LB women are in the initial stages. It is hoped that the program can be carried on into the future with more meetings such as this to take place in other countries as well.

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mshdir lskakÍ

^;ykï wdorhla fidhd wkka;hg mshUd .sh lskakrdúh

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wd;AudrlAIl mqyqKq mx;sh

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bv lv iSñ;hs'



child of innocence, child of irony I spent a year at my uncle's bedside and watched him die, and there was nothing I could do. I washed him when he couldn't wash himself, I touched his skin with a wet cloth, sponged his sweat away, and this wasn't something that could save his life, but he thanked me anyway. He touched my hand one evening, when I was too busy with what I was doing, and he looked at me with his failing eyes and he said to me, "Thank you," and there was nothing I could say. So I looked away, in haste, and pretended to be busy with the pitcher next to his bed. I watched them bury him, watched lumps of soil being kicked into a hole in the ground by insensitive (or tired) labourers, and I suddenly could not believe it anymore. And what scares me, more than anything, is my inability to understand what it is that I could no longer believe. Because death is not new to me. I've seen death before. And my uncle was not particularly close: at least no closer than any other given uncle of any other given nephew. The house I live in is greying now, with my mother carrying on in the kitchen, or near the washing machine, or in the garden, not knowing how to handle her newly-stricken son. My father was also dead, though much long ago for me to really feel anything about it, except a misplaced (or, perhaps, a properly placed) sense of jealousy for the children who actually had one. I sit inside my room, and I try sketching with a stick of charcoal I stole from my best friend, but I know she won't mind. When the paper is wasted, and the charcoal is just dust, I try writing. A poem or two, a story, an essay. Nothing really works. Nothing brings me closer to this animal inside me that I am trying to wrestle, this question I have in my head. Somewhere during this time, my exam results would come, and my mother would struggle with why I am unable to rejoice in my university placement. The couple of A's that returned. Another year before they tell me where to go, which faculty I belong in - but that's not what brings my life to a standstill. Not even close. My uncle drank half his life, and took a year to die. In the house my father left me and my mother, in my room. It was the longest year in his life, as he lay there and learnt to pray again, to say "Namo mariyani", feebly fingering the beads of a dirty white rosary my mother had found for him from inside a shoebox, where she had kept random pieces of his old life, knowing that a day would come when she would have to hand them back to him, when he had come to know the error of his ways. It had a photograph, this box that my mother had filled with my uncle's old life. A photograph of two young boys of about my age: one with quite some hair, a t-shirt and one of those bell-bottoms from the Seventies. His laugh had frozen to eternity when the camera had clicked, and I knew, not from recognition but from the irony, that that was the face that belonged to my dead uncle. The one who had been buried in the village cemetery on a scorching day in September, in an empty ceremony full of me, my mother, a few forgotten friends and other nondescript dead people. His was a life that had amounted to nothing by the time it ended, but it had meant something when he had been young, and when I saw this picture the first time, a week


after my uncle had died, I realised to my surprise that that meaning came from the young boy standing by his side in the photo from all those years ago. There is something frightening in realising that a happy life could soon turn sour, and all there would be left of the happy days are photographs, their edges frayed, the colours faded. There is something inside me that wrenches horribly when I realise that the difference between happiness and its opposite could be another human being: someone standing beside you in a photograph from your past, who didn't quite make it into your present. Of course, I could be wrong. This could be nothing, just my imagination, my thirst for irony. It could be just a random picture, and the teenager next to my uncle just another friend. My mother could have saved the picture just for the value of his smile, because she missed it when it had disappeared behind the golden liquid of liquor. It could be nothing. But what if it wasn't? And this is what kept me sketching that smile on my uncle's face from that picture. His laughing smile, the thing that was now so absolutely of the past. They could've met in a classroom. Or at church. Or in some workshop where they learnt carpentry, in those urban schools of theirs, where things about hammers and ploughs were taught in the Seventies as if they were a science, a life essential. They may have smoothed a piece of wood together, pushing the jack plane across the board, together, their eyes on each other, grinning as the wooden surface slowly turned silken. Their fingers may have brushed, absently at first, and then on purpose. Their intents may have been made known to each other, they may have become friends. They may have shared a smile. There is a quietness about my uncle's friend. In the picture that I now hold on to, as if it were mine from the very beginning, from the day it was taken: from the day my uncle's smile emerged on the piece of paper, in the red light of some man's darkroom. My uncle's friend let's call him Jith, for our purposes - smiles quietly, his eyes looking straight into the lens of the camera. There was something incomprehensibly intelligent about this. This directness, a confidence almost, despite his quietness. I imagine him to have been private, secretive. But also to have been welcoming: inviting my uncle to discover him, the secret of who he was. And I like to think that he did, my uncle. Because he was always the holder of keys. The man who found a way into dark places. And with that smile, that looseness about his shoulders, he may have once been able to brighten the dark places he found. I like to think that. Or they may have been secretive together. Jith may have extended his arm and brought my uncle closer to himself, so they would both fold into his secret together. Become one secret, one hidden word. They may have belonged to an old, secret story, or made their own story, or borrowed an unfinished story and decided to complete it together. I like to think that, too. It is past midnight, and I steal away to the top of our roof. Through the balcony, up the kohomba tree, on to the roof. The moon is more a scythe than a sickle, bright and silver against the black of the sky. I pull my t-shirt off, stand against the wind, waiting for the rain. Waiting for the clouds to come. I have become strange. I have come to try death, question it, struggle to like it, understand it, or, if all that fails, at least hate it.

SHORT STORY But it is not death that is up to question here, but life. Life that stretches, and ends before it is complete, where completeness is the coming true of a dream, the resolution of an unresolved regret. My uncle was a happy man when he was young. Of that, I am certain. I hold in my hand the sepia-toned piece of evidence to that truth. But around me, surrounding me, is the truth of his death. His absence. My mother pausing with the broom in hand near the kitchen door, looking out towards the west, and sighing at length. Thinking of her brother, the man who had made them all laugh. The memory of his bedraggled hair, and beard. The ever-present smell of stale alcohol in his breath. His growl of a voice, marred by the smoke that ran up and down his throat, as he had sat smoking and drinking, sitting in the shadows of his loneliness. What happened? I keep thinking. What happened? They must have been in love, Jith and my uncle. Before they were old enough to understand that, to the world, what they thought or felt would not matter. They must have thought they'd fight back. That they wouldn't care, as they sat secretly in a dilapidated house in Wellawatte, smoking a rebellious cigarette, stealing kisses from each other. Laughing. Being alive in their youth. Singing Clarence Wijewardane's songs, my uncle strumming a guitar. Sometimes switching to a baila. It can't have been them getting caught that tore them apart. That would be too easy, too simple. Though they must have got caught, surely. People must have noticed how close they were: how happy they were with each other. How they laughed, swimming back and forth between intelligence and innocence. Maybe a teacher found them. Or a classmate found them, and carried the tale to a teacher. How much of a devastation this would have caused, I cannot tell. Because this was the Seventies, the wrong time in history, even in Sri Lanka. We were grappling with an evanescent Independence, a closed economy, the insurgency, and some other things like that that I only know of from school books, and misinformed pieces of paper. If they had been found, which they may well have been, they may have been admonished, warned, dismissively excused. My uncle went to an Anglican all-boys' school. With prefects and school houses and surnames. All things British, practised with a level of exactitude worthy of the British. They may have knelt in the school lawn the whole day, their white school uniforms bright against the sunlight, their torsos upright, their arms behind their backs. They may have looked solemn on purpose, unapologetic for the crime they had been accused of committing. They may have stolen fleeting glances at each other, with concern, always worrying for the other one, wondering if his knees hurt, if his back ached. We must love each other, they must have thought And they may have learnt their defiance then. Or they may have beenbroken then, right there. But I don't like to think that. here's what I think happened. It's a beautiful day, when my uncle jumps off the yellow CTB outside his school. This was the Seventies, and back then, I think, children liked to go to school, unlike in my time. So I imagine smiling children. Laughing, smacking their friends on their shoulders in loud hellos, as they walk through the tailgates, the sloping driveway. I imagine schoolmasters, with big dockets, overflowing with notes, pieces of paper. Teachers, in saris, and handbags with long, long straps: the purses hanging from their shoulders, but still long enough to bounce on their hips. Their


hair styled in perms, and in bumps near their foreheads. It's a glorious day, the breeze rolling up the steep driveway to meet the students. My uncle slips his hands inside his pockets, the way I've seen him do it sometimes in his older days, when he feels content. He walks with a spring in his gait, almost whistling. It's the last day of his school life. In a few weeks he will sit for the Advanced Level exams, but for now, today is the last day he will have a classroom to sit in, a reason to cry out "Present!" when the register is being marked. But he has no room for nostalgia. He is too happy to leave, too happy for the freedom that waited for him and Jith on the other side of the last day of school. One week of ALs, one week of harrowing through economics and organic chemistry, and then, it would be them. Alone. Maybe they'd go to Yala - see a leopard. Or Pasikuda, to the yellow-gold beaches and the shallow seas, the teeming fish, nervous and flickering. Or Adam's Peak, or World's End. Months of freedom, months of escape. So much time to spend with the one he loved, alone. My uncle couldn't wait. But, of course, it wasn't going to be that way. They meet under a secret tree, one so conspicuous that nobody sees it. Perhaps near a boundary wall, a big building, or close to a well. Things I would like in the picture, if the story were about me. They meet under this, their secret tree, and my uncle is too much of a smiler to realise that something is amiss. He smiles and laughs, and he makes all these assumptions, as he tells Jith about his plans for them. His plans of Pasikuda, of the flickering teems of fish, and kissing underwater. He doesn't notice Jith shifting uncomfortably. His fists are curling inside his own pockets, his glasses tight on the bridge of his nose. My uncle just continues, almost prattles: "Or we could go to Yala ... yeah, we'll go to Yala - we could camp in the open, and in the night it will be like Africa, and there maybe elephants, or deer. I've never seen deer! If we're lucky, if we're really, really lucky, we may even see a -" "Anil." Says Jith. And everything crashes into silence. And my uncle knows it is over even before Jith begins. And I imagine this silence to settle inside my uncle, the way an old dog settles quietly into the place it will die, the place from which it will never rise again. "I am leaving," says Jith. And he doesn't realise that he won't be able to take back what he just said, until he had already said it. And he folds into my uncle's silence too. He wonders if it's the right thing, this truth he has just told my uncle. He wonders if it will stay true, this fact of him leaving; he even wonders if he has a choice in any of it. But those were thoughts that happen inside Jith, and my unde will never hear any of it. His hands that were buried deep in his pockets sneak slowly out, and he asks, quietly, in a timid whisper, "Why?" And I like to think that Jith, being the intelligent one, doesn't know. And this is what bothers him, annoys him, and he stands up straight, and says, "There's nothing I can do. I have to leave." And that's when he leaves - when he turns around, and walks away. And that's when the frown on my uncle's face became permanent, the one I recognised on his face, as he laid in state in a wooden coffin my mother paid for, about thirty years later. There is something to this story I imagine. This story that may be


SHORT STORY true, but may also be not. But it explains to me, why my uncle's life ended the way it did and, more importantly, why it was the way it was before it ended. I think (and all of what I think may just be pointless, which in itself is a lesson to be learnt) that my uncle's life was divided by one half of innocence and one half of experience, with the loss of something he held close to his heart sitting in between - irrelevant of whether it was Jith, or a woman, a beloved dog, or a golden ring. People say that coming of age - becoming a man - is about learning the wisdom of life, the ability to understand its nature, and receiving the ability to shrug away its adversities. But I think my uncle was the example to a different truth: when some people grow up, when they lose their innocence, it is when they receive the knowledge of the fallibility of their happiness. The insecurity of it. And they are so consumed by this realisation that they live to become someone who yearns for the innocence they lost, the deletion of their experi-

ence, and the nullification of that universal truth they just realised. I don't think my uncle spent the rest of his life waiting for the return of whatever he lost. Instead, he spent the rest of his life resenting the fact that one could lose the thing they love the most. And it is this possibility that makes me love my unde, now dead, in a way that I never loved him when he was alive. In a story imagined on the finding of a stray photo from the past, I leave with this one last image: a piece of paper bearing a charcoal sketch of a gravestone with only a first name: Anil. There's a bunch of flowers lying at its foot, sadly, as if it had wilted on the long journey and the many years it had taken to arrive at the place where Anil now rested. It bore a piece of paper, and written across it, were a few words: We love, though we leave. Michael Mendis michaelmendis@live.

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EQUAL GROUND work calendar July 1st to September 30th 2010

Since we are unable to write about all our work in these past few months, we are including it here in point form to give the reader an idea of our work schedule.


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The month long Pride celebration continued with the LGBT art & photo exhibition (5-7th July), the LGBT film Festival (5-7th July), the drama ‘Leave a light on for me’ (10th July) and the Rainbow Kite Festival (11th July). EQUAL GROUND held a Sensitization Programme at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for health care givers. EQUAL GROUND facilitated a 2 day training on security and organisational administration and capacity building and hosted a 2 day conference, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka for Lesbian and Bisexual women from South Asia. Participating countries were India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. (28-31st July) A reception was held in honour of the first South Asian Lesbian Conference in Sri Lanka on 30th July. It was the first all LB women’s reception to be held in Colombo. The women from The 4 South Asian Countries were able to meet many LB women from Sri Lanka as well as other nationalities and have a safe environment to enjoy each others’ company while dancing and chatting and having a good time! Executive Director made a presentation at the Rotary Club of Colombo Midtown on LGBT in the workplace. EQUAL GROUND attended the WDP White Ribbon campaign progress meeting held at the WDP office premises. 3 Members of staff attended the presentation on Law and HIV/AIDS. Nigel de Silva our Projects Officer gave a moving testimony on living with HIV/AIDS. The keynote speaker was the Hon. Michael Kirby from Australia.

August  Executive Director made a presentation at the Rotary Club of Colombo Uptown entitled Closets are for clothes - addressing the wider and unaddressed issues of sexuality; in the home and in the workplace.  Field Officers made field visits to sign MOU’s with the 10 Satellite Officers that will conduct outreach on behalf of the WDP-CIDA funded GBV project on LB women in the rural areas.  Members of staff were given training in Gender Based Violence by Women Defining Peace.  Field officers and Projects officers held a module development workshop for the WDP-CIDA funded GBV project on LB women in the rural areas.  Members of staff were trained documentation, monitoring and evaluation of Gender Based Violence by Sumika Perera.

September  A 4 day workshop was conducted in Nuwara Eliya to train 9 Satellite Officers who have been picked to provide outreach, documentation, monitoring and evaluation and coordinate workshops for LB women experiencing violence in the rural areas.  EQUAL GROUND’s Crisis Management Unit an LGBT Human Rights Defender after she was attacked by unknown assailants while she was on her way home. Upeksha was assisted to leave town and a well know Human Rights Lawyer was contacted on her behalf.  A meeting was held with staff counsellors and key volunteers to assess the Counselling Helpline. The program was reviewed and changes were proposed to make the line more efficient and helpful to the callers.  EQUAL GROUND in partnership with ICES and WSG presented the first in a series of dialogues entitled “Recognition of disabled and LGBTQ in Sri Lanka: Challenges and ways to move forward.”  EQUAL GROUND coordinated and presented at a meeting held at the Diocesan Chamber of Christ the Living Saviour Cathedral (Anglican Church) regarding homosexuality and the church. The movie ‘Prayers for Bobby’ was screened and a discussion followed.  4 Workshops were conducted in Kalutara and Galle for Sinhala for women and men from the District Secretariat and rural communities on Sexuality, Gender, and Human Rights.  4 Workshops were conducted in Trincomalee for Tamil youth from the Sarvodaya Technical Centre on Sexuality, Gender, and Human Rights.  EQUAL GROUND assisted a Gay man seeking asylum in New Zealand with his legal case.  EQUAL GROUND’s Transgender Club ‘Akasa Kusum’ held a 1 day discussion and training.  Self Defence classes conducted by Karate Black Belt Dushyanth began again in the first week of September.  A fellowship evening followed a convening meeting of the volunteer counsellors on 25th September. A ‘Paduru Party’ was held to celebrate Ramadan. Participants enjoyed the spontaneous singing and dancing and the scrumptious Biriyani meal provided by EQUAL GROUND.  Members of staff were trained in documenting and evaluating Stigma and Discrimination against LGBTIQ persons in a 1 day workshop.



Actress, Comedienne and activist Nimmi Harasgama spoke to Rosanna Flamer-Caldera recently in while visiting with family and friends in Sri Lanka.

Nimmi - Colombo September 2010

RFC: We had a chance to screen your movie Akasa Kusum at our PRIDE film Festival. Firstly, tell us, what made you do this particular film? Well initially I really wanted to work with Prasanna Vithanage again to be honest, and to get the opportunity to sort of learn more from him because he’s just a wealth of knowledge and when this script came up and he sent it to me to read to see if I’d be interested I just loved the script, I thought it was a great screen play, great idea, great story. And so definitely wanted to do it. And the character was something that I had never tackled before so it was a challenge for me. RFC: The character you played in the movie; what preparation did you make to play this role? How challenging was it, if at all? Um well initially, you know, I read the role, sort of did research about it, because she’s a call girl, ….prostitute let’s say …you know it’s never really sort of said out loud that she is a prostitute, but she’s definitely one of these girls who work in these clubs who dances with strange men. Um, And it’s a very different situation culturally to something that is happening say in the west ; it’s a different perception, because it’s like if you go to a club in the west or even here it’s just girls who are gonna be dancing with you. It’s nothing… It’s not lewd at all actually when you kinda go in there. And then when I came here, I went into these clubs to sort of see how they behave etc. And I had a very sort of…the way I went in there was “oh I’m going to observe these girls I’m not really one of them I’m Nimmi etc., and when I went in there it shocked me so much what they have to do, what they have to go through, that you know, it made me realize the responsibility of playing this character because I wanted to make her human. She is not a call girl, she is Priya, who has a background, a life, a history, her problems and it just happens that she has had to do this job to earn money. And the experience I had in this club in seeing these girls and sometimes what happens to them, there was this one


incident where this man was dancing with one of these girls, and he lifted….she was tiny and he was this massive, massive guy and he lifted her up and he just threw her. He threw her and she just went flying on the floor, and I just couldn’t believe it and then the bouncers came and I thought “oh good they’re gonna take her away, they’re gonna protect her” and they gave her her shoes and they pushed her back to this man. And, you know it just leaves a really, really bad feeling in you as a woman seeing this happening and you can’t do anything about it. But you can if you are able to play this character and you try and do this person because you know she deserves respect, they all deserve respect and not to be judged. RFC: There was a definite yet subtle Lesbian relationship between your character and Bunty in the movie. Care to elaborate a little on this? Um, Yes definitely there was , you know there was this relationship between Bunty and Umm…Priya, and it was absolute love, because I think a lot of the time when people portray… when they portray you know a lesbian sort of encounter they like to make it all sexual etc, and this film is not about that issue, but it happens to be that these two women are in love in this film, and I think that’s what Prasanna wanted to put across because if you look at the whole film, you’ll see that the relationships that happen with men are unsuccessful, I mean he’s not trying to say all relationships with men are unsuccessful, but in this particular film it’s been a hard situation for women who’ve had relationships with men, but this relationship between these two women it’s so strong and you know they help each other in so many ways and it’s just you know I mean, it’s beautiful. RFC: Your character being HIV+ and eventually dying of AIDS – care to comment on why or how this twist in the plot came to be? (because, some might think that it is totally unnecessary to have that twist as well…) Um, I think because this isn’t an educational film, and yes as an educational film which I have actually done about AIDS, I played the girl friend of a guy who was HIV, and we ended up getting married and we ended up adopting a child, and that is to educate people especially in this country to make them aware that there is nothing wrong if you’re HIV, and you can have a wholesome, healthy life and you can have a family etc. And that was an educational film. This is a film which is a human film (human…as opposed to an alien film? Ha! Ha!)…it’s the director’s story, its life, its true life and it’s what could happen and what he wanted to portray. The whole point of this film is that it’s not a Hollywood ending, where they - Priya and Bunty live happily ever after – Priya and Sandya Rani meet up, and they re-unite and she becomes her mother and everything is perfect. No, this film is about Sandya Rani, this film is about her story. So the reason that Priya dies in the end is because then, Sandya Rani is never able to meet her daughter and have a reconciliation, she’s not given that chance, but she is given the chance, the second chance to bring up another life, and rear this child (Priya’s). RFC: You are back from England after almost 2 years - care to tell us what it is that keeps you in the UK? Two and a half years! Oh! the weather is just so amazing, I love the weather. And you know who wants to live in this lovely, beautiful country, you know sun, sand and sea, why not live with the cold, and the hail, and the rain and the snow, and the wind?!!

INTERVIEW WITH NIMMI HARASGAMA Yeah well, I’m actually working as an Actor there, which is something I really wanted to see whether I could do and I’m doing that now and I’ve just done a National tour of a play. Um, I also had the opportunity to write my own solo show which is produced by a theatre company there. And um, I performed that at a really interesting theatre called the Battersea Arts Centre. And the theatre company wants to tour my show next year which is really exciting for me, and I’m just about to go back to England to act in a film, so, this is my passion, and, when it’s happening then one must just follow it and see what happens. But, eventually obviously I really wanna come back here and live here because I miss everybody. RFC: And how does it feel to be back? And how many lamprais have you had since you touched down in Colombo last Friday? It’s lovely to be here with all my family and my extended family. And I’ll start crying now, because it’s just you know, it’s just so important. And when I say family, it’s my family, my friends are also my family. So, it’s…it’s that,…that… just come back and it’s exactly the same, it’s so special. Aiyo, I haven’t had any lamprais men ! (RFC- What!), Not yet, because you know Pushpa is also just the most amazing cook (RFC- Pushpa is your cook at home?) Yeah, and I’m eating all this amazing food (RFC - I heard that she thought you were too thin?), Yeah yeah, I’ll have to be rolled onto the plane. (RFC – You’ll be Overweight?), Yes, but you know having Pushpa as our cook, but she is also part of our family and her family is now part of our family and so you know all that is really important.

asylum in the England, and it’s her “experience” in the England and… (In Nimmi’s normal voice) you know it’s a bit tongue in cheek, it’s a comedy, but it’s also dealing with issues that you know are quite important to me, because I’ve done a lot of work in England also with theatre development, worked with young adult refugees and asylum seekers etc, the stigma with being an asylum seeker, and how people you know, look at you and behave and so, she’s an asylum seeker she tells all the stories about, I mean from Obama, to being maybe a little bi-sexual, you know. And how she, how somebody…. you know these are experiences that have actually happened to me, and I was quite shocked that this would happen to me now in England, because when I was growing up there it was quite racist, and then when I moved back in recent times it’s been fabulous, especially London is so multi cultural. But, while I was up in Newcastle touring with four Asian girls, we were on the side of the road looking at a menu at a restaurant, and somebody went by and threw an egg at us. RFC: Oh my God! Yeah, but you’re’s happened to us before, we don’t care, but so that’s in my story...but, it’s how somebody throws an egg and Aunty Netta says (Nimmi speaks in her “Aunty Netta” voice) “Sin no for that bird who laid that egg and it fell on my head and broke no! that Mamma has lost her baba!” So, that’s what Aunty Netta thought that was. So, it comes out, so the audience laughs, and they think oh that’s funny, but really, you know… RFC: Quite serious! Yeah more serious. RFC: Nimmi you know that you have a huge fan base in Sri Lanka with the LGBT community. And you know they were so thrilled when we screened Akasa Kusum for Pride. So, what advise can you give your fans in the LGBT community? (Nimmi speaks in her “Aunty Netta” voice) Anney! I’m so happy somebody wants me!

Nimmi and her Mom Vasanthi - Colombo

RFC: Any new projects in the near future? (Well you said about the movie that you’re going to be doing so, apart from that…) I was also approached by a British Agency. A female director in London who won the Raindance festival two years ago with her feature, and we just you know through networking we just became friends etc, ….she proposed that I write a short film and act in it and see who’d direct it. So, I’m on the fourth draft, and she’s promised me that the next draft is it. And we’d hopefully be filming that at the beginning of next year. So that’s quite exciting. RFC: And how is Aunty Netta? I heard she was hit recently at a show you did in England. Tell us more about that. She’s good men, whatever said and done, she’s surviving. “Ah, (Nimmi speaks in her “Aunty Netta” voice) Yes, yes, “Holiday for Asylum”. RFC: Holiday for Asylum!? (Nimmi speaks in her “Aunty Netta” voice) Aunty Netta is seeking the

RFC: I know for a fact that my entire office are huge, huge fans! (Nimmi speaks in her “Aunty Netta” voice) Well, I will come and visit them aah! Before I leave, I promise! RFC: Absolutely! (In Nimmi’s normal voice) Um, I think, I dunno… I’m not very good at giving advice, as you remember from the last remember the last time I said (Nimmi speaks in her “Aunty Netta” voice) “No, you’ll get all the haywire?!” (laughs!) But, I think it’s really important whatever anybody says to you, whatever, you know, barriers come up in front of you, that you always be yourself and be true to yourself, and just keep believing in yourself, and you know, doesn’t matter what else goes on… RFC: And the rest will follow? And the rest will follow. And, the rest will follow, because, you know…don’t hide, don’t hide…follow your dreams! RFC: Nimmi! thankyou so much… Anney, thank you Rosanna!



Rainbow News 2010 October issue 02  

Rainbow News is the quaterly Newsletter published by EQUAL GROUND on Human Rights of Lebian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons in Sri La...

Rainbow News 2010 October issue 02  

Rainbow News is the quaterly Newsletter published by EQUAL GROUND on Human Rights of Lebian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons in Sri La...