Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, secretary-general of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), lives in Sri Lanka where it’s illegal to be gay or lesbian.
Up until 1995 only male homosexuality was criminalised, but when LGBT groups approached the Sri Lankan government to overturn this they added lesbians to the blacklist as well.
Gays and lesbians from poorer sections of society are particularly vulnerable.
They’re regularly victimised, while police often blackmail, extort and sometimes rape them.
Life in Sri Lanka is very tough for LGBT people. And it’s probably the only country in the world that criminalises lesbians, Flamer-Caldera told Sydney Star Observer.
She’s in the country on behalf of ILGA to campaign for our government to support the United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolution on sexual orientation.
The resolution put forward by Brazil in 2003 asks the UN to accept that LGBT rights are human rights, and countries that victimise LGBT people should be held accountable to the UN for their human rights abuses.
The resolution is due to be put forward again at the UNCHR in March. Though we’re not 100 percent sure Brazil will put the resolution forward again. There are rumours floating around they may withdraw, Flamer-Caldera said.
Those in support of the resolution include the European Union, the Latin American and Caribbean nations, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Those opposed to it are the African nations and most Islamic countries.
The US is being very wishy-washy and non-committal about the whole thing, Flamer-Caldera said, because of their heavy leanings toward the Protes-tant right.
Her meetings this week with the Australian foreign office in Canberra were fruitful, she said, and added they were mostly very, very supportive.
However, foreign minister Alexander Downer was not available to meet her.
Australia is actually very supportive, considering the climate here politically at the moment. I don’t think it’s the consensus of everybody that LGBT rights should be taken away. I think it’s only the consensus of a few, she said.
But you need to stand up for your rights still and say, -˜Hey, we’re not going to go away. We’re here and we want our rights.’
Flamer-Caldera will be giving a talk on the UNHCR resolution in Sydney tonight. She will be joined by activists Rodney Croome and Howard Glenn from the newly formed organisation Rights Australia.
The UNHCR resolution talk is on Thursday 17 February, 6pm-8pm, at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Auditorium, Level 1, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney (between Bathurst and Park Streets).