By Rosanna Flamer-Caldera and Denis LeBlanc
The Sri Lankan LGBTIQ group Equal Ground celebrated its 10th anniversary on June 10 with a special event at the Goethe Institute in Colombo.
The organization works to overcome the challenges that the LGBTIQ community faces — criminalization of same-sex relationships, cultural and social stigma, discrimination, marginalization, violence, mental health issues, low self-esteem and internalized homophobia. Sri Lanka still has a law, inherited from its years as a British colony, that makes same-sex intercourse punishable by prison sentences of 10 to 20 years.
The June 10 celebration, sponsored by the Norwegian Embassy and the Goethe Institute, was attended by an estimated 150 people.
LGBTIQ community members mixed with embassy personnel and heads of missions, local NGOs, international NGOs, corporate representatives, artists and performers. The organizers had hoped for and prepared for 75 people, so they were pleasantly taken aback when double that number participated.
Among the honored guests attending the 10th anniversary reception were Ms. Sherry Carlin, Mission Director for USAID; Mr. Prasantha Lal de Alwis, President’s Counsel, Visiting Lecturer at the University of Colombo Law Faculty and Law College, and Honorary Consul of Seychelles for Sri Lanka; Mr. Bjoern Ketels, Country Director of the Goethe Institute,
and Ms. Indrani Kusumalatha, Praja Diriya Foundatoin in Puttalam.
Speakers, including Grete Lochen, the ambassador of Norway, talked about Equal Ground and their collaborations with the group. The speeches were followed by welcome dances performed by community members from Vavuniya (Bharata Natyam) and Matara (low country Sinhala) and the Transgender (MTF) troupe Akasa Kusum. Following this entertainment, those present viewed a half-hour video documentary on EQUAL GROUND.
“All in all, a good turn out to a fabulous program,” commented Equal Ground executive director Rosanna Flamer-Caldera. Flamer-Caldera said the celebration is quite remarkable, given that Sri Lanka is still in some turmoil after a lengthy civil war.
EQUAL GROUND not only organised this anniversary reception, the group also organized their 10th Pride Week with daily events from June 1 to 7. Flamer-Caldera commented that Sri Lanka’s Pride Week “may be comparatively small compared to other Prides all over the world, but for us this is big. Also, … we cannot march on the street as many of you do!”
Pride week included a variety of artistic and cultural events. A one-man show started the week; Celluloid Rainbow, an LGBTQ film festival, and Rainbow Visions, an art and photo exhibition, ran over several days.
Also included were a playwrights forum at the University of Performing Arts, story-telling workshops and a story-telling performance. A Rainbow Pride Beach Party, attended by over 200 people, wrapped up the Pride events for this year.
These were extraordinary cultural and entertainment events in Colombo, Flamer-Caldera said, especially because total attendance was about 1,100 people.