Parliament asks Dolawatta to move Penal Code (Amd) Bill proposing decriminalisation of same-sex conduct for second reading
Colombo (LNW): The Parliament of Sri Lanka has called in Ruling Party MP Premnath Dolawatta to attend the upcoming Parliamentary Business Committee meeting to review his private member’s bill showcasing decriminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual relations between adults via a ‘Penal Code (Amendment) Bill,’ a historical first move by a Sri Lankan lawmaker for the safeguarding of the rights of people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).
Dated 09.12.2023, the letter requesting the SLPP MP to move the ‘Penal Code (Amendment) Bill’ for second reading has been sent by Chief of Staff and Deputy Secretary General of Parliament Chaminda Kularatne, on behalf of the Secretary General of Parliament.
On the instructions of the Speaker, the matter related to the passing of the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill in Parliament was discussed at the meeting of the Committee on Parliamentary Business on November 20, the letter said, adding that after having discussed, the Committee decided to invite Dolawatta to attend the next meeting of the Committee in order to get ‘further clarification’ in this regard.
Accordingly, the next Committee meeting is due on December 12, 2023, and the SLPP lawmaker has been requested to sit for it, the letter added.
Dolawatta’s private member’s bill proposing decriminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual behaviour between adults proposes amendments to the sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code as follows;
1. This Act may be cited as the Penal Code (Amendment) Act, No. of 2023.
2. Sections 365and 365A , of the Penal Code (Chapter 19) (hereinafter referred to as the “principal enactment”) is hereby amended as follows:–
(i) Section 365 in the principal enactment is hereby repealed and it is amended by substituting the following section:
“Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with an animal, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also liable to fine.”
Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.
(ii) Section 365A of the principal enactment is hereby repealed.
(iii) The intent of the legislature in enacting this legislation must be considered as amending the provisions that makes sexual orientation a punishable offence.
3. In the event of any inconsistency between the Sinhala and Tamil texts of this Act, the Sinhala text shall prevail.
Dolawatta’s private member’s bill was challenged before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka accusing it to be violating fundamental rights (FR), but the arguments were dropped by the Supreme Court producing a special and a historic determination that consensual same-sex sexual relations between adults are in fact constitutional and any move for decriminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual relations between adults can be passed into law with a simple majority in Parliament. The FR petition lodged challenging the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill proposed by the SLPP MP was appealed by a number of intermediate petitioners including human and civil rights activists, community-organisations and other individuals.