Advocates In Sri Lanka Call For Change To Laws That Criminalize, Stigmatize Sex Work, Same-Sex Relationships

“Sri Lanka has long enjoyed a low 0.1 percent HIV prevalence but, as the number of fresh infections rises steadily, experts are calling for a change in the country’s archaic laws that make sex work illegal and criminalizes homosexual activity,” Inter Press Service reports. “In the first quarter of the current year there were 40 new cases of HIV compared to 32 and 27 in the first quarters of 2011 and 2010 respectively, according to the National STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP),” the news service notes, adding “an estimated 41,000 commercial sex workers (CSWs) and 30,000 men who have sex with men (MSMs)” live in Sri Lanka. “‘In the past two years new infections are seen to be rising among those below 24 years, and 50 percent of them are MSMs,’ says NSACP director Nimal Edirisinghe,” IPS writes.

Last month, the human rights group Equal Ground petitioned the government to repeal two sections of the nation’s penal code that criminalize same sex relationships and sex work, according to IPS. “‘The criminalization of same sex relationships and the resultant cultural and social stigmas attached to homosexuality,’ said the petition, leads to ‘all forms of discrimination, marginalization and violence, resulting in mental health issues, low self-esteem and internalized homophobia,'” the news service notes. David Bridger, country coordinator for UNAIDS in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, “says there is an urgent need for policy debate and discussion on reproductive rights and sexual health,” the news service writes. “Bad laws should not be allowed to stand in the way of effective HIV responses,” he said, according to IPS (Samath, 7/16).

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