Sri Lanka

At a glance

  • Same-sex relations: illegal
  • Legal gender recognition: possible
  • Registration of LGBTIQ organizations: possible
  • Actions related to SOGI at UN: supported IE SOGI in 2016



In 2016, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court condemned the current penal codes criminalizing same-sex relations; however, the laws remain on the books. These laws, in addition to Sri Lanka’s vague Vagrancy Ordinances, provide legal coverage for police targeting, harassment, and extortion of LGBTIQ people. Prosecutions under these laws are uncommon, yet they contribute to widespread antipathy towards LGBTIQ people. Public officials have stated that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is implicitly banned under the Sri Lankan Constitution, but LGBTIQ people regularly experience discrimination. The National Human Rights Action Plan for 2017-2021 failed to protect against discrimination explicitly on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Gender Recognition Circular was issued in 2016. The process was implemented the same year and appears to be working smoothly. Legal gender recognition can be obtained within 3-5 days, with the new identity card containing no gender history.

Public officials have mixed reactions to LGBTIQ issues. While some politicians disparage LGBTIQ identities as an illness or an “import from Western culture,” other politicians have begun to express tentative support for the human rights of LGBTIQ people. The media disseminates inaccurate information about LGBTIQ issues, which reinforces the general public’s view that LGBTIQ people threaten culture, religion, and traditional values of Sri Lanka.