The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has determined that criminalising female same-sex sexual activity is a human rights violation.

On March 23, CEDAW became the first international body to make this determination. 

It is specifically aimed at Sri Lanka’s Penal Code Section 365.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Section 365 punishes ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with up to 10 years in prison and a fine. Section 365A punishes “any act of gross indecency” with up to two years in prison and a fine.”

Neela Ghoshal, Senior Director of Law, Policy & Research OutRight Action International tweeted, “The verdict is clear: compulsory heterosexuality, enforced through legislation and policing as well as unchecked social stigma, violates women’s rights under international law.

In light of the ruling, Sri Lanka must provide a response in writing, within six months, to the committee. The response must detail the steps Sri Lanka has or will take in order to comply with CEDAW’s ruling. 

According to Human Rights Watch, “At least 10 countries have, since 1986, explicitly enacted laws that criminalize sex between women as well as men, sometimes perversely framing this as a gesture toward equality.” 

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