Equal Ground is Sri Lanka’s organization seeking human and politial rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning community. The organization has successfully organized Pride events for over a decade, with this year marking the 12th Colombo PRIDE. Annual Colombo PRIDE celebrations are held each year to “bring together the LGBTIQ community in one safe space to celebrate their diversity in an environment free of discrimination and prejudice.”
On their website, Equal Ground explains the importance and overall purpose of holding PRIDE celebrations, as well as the specific events that take place:
Equal Ground works very hard to provide for the needs of the community each year giving the LGBTIQ community of Sri Lanka the space to stand up tall and be proud of who and what they are. PRIDE in Sri Lanka is currently on a small scale and whilst we hope to one day march the streets demanding our rights, the current political climate4 coupled with the oppressive laws against LGBTIQ persons, impedes a peaceful march. therefore, PRIDE celebrations take place as private, yet very public functions attended by persons from all over Sri Lanka.
Each year, a diverse range of events are held to encourage the Queer community to come out and be proud. It is also an educational and sensitizing exercise where the message of diversity is addressed in a holistic way, paving for better understanding and acceptance of the Queer community by the larger Sri Lankan citizenship. Events include workshops, dramas/shows/musicals, film festivals, art & photo exhibitions, parties, a kite festival, and so on.
Since this year’s Colombo PRIDE celebrations were announced, disturbing articles and messages have been published online by hate groups that Equal Ground says are “threatening to derail progress towards ensuring equal rights for all persons regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity” and spread “derogatory and false information regarding the LGBTIQ community and Equal Ground.” One of these politically motivated groups known as “The Island Nation of Sinhale,” is notorious for spreading radical ideologies intended to sow animosity and incite discrimination, hostility and even violence against minorities. Equal Ground has also faced resistance from institutions such as the Colombo Municipal Council and Sri Lanka Police when attempting to obtain permission for events commemorating International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia and Colombo PRIDE, with such institutions resorting to delay tactics to unreasonably withhold approvals for events without providing reasons for delays.
Despite the obstacles Equal Ground is faced with this year, the organization has stated that they will not be intimidated and will “proceed with the events planned for Colombo PRIDE 2016” as they continue to fight for equal rights for every individual regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
EQUAL GROUND @_EQUALGROUND_
In spite of all the dispicable threats to Colombo PRIDE 2016, we will still go ahead, with pride @CWEquality @LizBarkerLords
By Annette Covrigaru, Programs Intern | glaad.org