A recent investigation initiated by the authorities to determine the involvement of members of the Aragalaya in a Pride march held last week has sparked concerns within the country’s LGBTQ+ community.
The investigation into the ‘Freedom Pride Parade’ has prompted a debate about the rights of the community and the potential impact on ongoing efforts to decriminalise homosexuality in the country. In response to these developments, key stakeholders have expressed their perspectives on the matter.
Public Security Minister Tiran Alles stated that the investigation was not specifically related to the Pride march itself, but instead focused on the potential involvement of individuals who had participated in both the march and the Aragalaya. Alles emphasised the need to gather information and understand the events in question, highlighting that such inquiries were a standard procedure in any country.
“It has nothing to do with the Pride march. People who participated in the march were also the people who were at the Aragalaya, so we have to investigate and see what happened. When such an event happens in any country, its intelligence services will investigate the matter and find out what is happening.”
Threat to passing legislation
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Premnath Dolawatte expressed disappointment at not being informed about the Pride march by the organisers, despite the Police granting permission for the event.
Dolawatte acknowledged the Government’s efforts to decriminalise homosexuality, but voiced concerns that the march could be manipulated by nationalistic movements, which may jeopardise the ultimate goal of passing legislation in favour of LGBTQ+ rights. He urged the community to exercise patience and prudence until the legislation was successfully enacted.
“As the person who brought the bill to Parliament, I don’t think this will have much of an impact on the bill itself. However, public perception and unwanted nationalistic movements can manipulate this event and use it to discredit the legislation. As such, our ultimate goal of passing the legislation might be at risk.”
Other Pride marches
EQUAL GROUND Founder Rosanna Flamer-Caldera provided reassurance that the Pride march scheduled to be held by EQUAL GROUND on 18 June would be a peaceful celebration of gay pride, dissociating it from any protests or demands for rights. Flamer-Caldera clarified that the event would include participation from diplomats, school children with their parents, and corporate representatives alongside members of the LGBTQ+ community.
She asserted that the presence of an Aragalaya group would not be tolerated and that any such protesters would be asked to leave. Flamer-Caldera further emphasised the focus on community celebration, concluding with a Pride food festival.
“If they do take part and if they are going to be protesting, we will ask them to leave. There were protest banners at the last Pride march but our event won’t have protest banners or placards and there won’t be any shouting about rights or such. We will just celebrate our community and end with the Pride food festival.”
Jaffna Queer Festival (JQF) Founder and Director Dr. Kasro Ponnuthurai acknowledged the potential scrutiny the LGBTQ+ community may face from the Police and military during and after the Pride march. The Jaffna Pride march was held yesterday (10).
Ponnuthurai highlighted the importance of peaceful engagement, expressing confidence that the JQF’s long standing work in advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in Jaffna would help ensure a safe and inclusive environment for the march. Additionally, Ponnuthurai emphasised that the Pride march aimed to address various interconnected issues, including religious extremism, racism, and broader societal challenges.
“Anyone can be a part of the Pride march, whether they are from the Aragalaya, the State, or anywhere else. We will not only talk about the issues faced by our community, but also about religious extremism, racism, and issues faced by people.
“There were posts on social media questioning why I had carried a placard at the Freedom Pride Parade about the discrimination that happened during the Civil War and what its connection was to LGBTQ+ issues. Some people in our community think that our issues are not politicised, but they are. It is a political issue and all forms of political issues and ideologies are interconnected. Therefore, I will definitely be talking about various issues in addition to the issues of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The investigation into the involvement of Aragalaya members in the recent Pride march in Sri Lanka has generated concerns within the LGBTQ+ community. While authorities aim to gather information and understand the events in question, stakeholders have expressed varying viewpoints on the matter.
As the investigation progresses, it is crucial to ensure that the rights and safety of the LGBTQ+ community are protected. Dialogues between authorities, activists, and community members should be encouraged to address concerns and foster a deeper understanding of the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community in Sri Lanka.