Homosexuality in a Sri Lankan Context Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:25:56
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We struggled against apartheid because we were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about. It is the same with homosexuality. The orientation is a given, not a matter of choice. It would be crazy for someone to choose to be gay, given the homophobia that is present. (Bishop Desmond Tutu). The above quote on homosexuality exemplifies on how homosexuality is a given and not a choice. It also exposes ones understanding to the detrimental state of social homophobia and imposes a moral social obligation upon the society in whole

In approaching our research topic it is important to bear in mind that Sri Lankan society is a diversified social grounding. This society includes people deriving from a multiplicity of backgrounds may it be religious, ethnic or cultural. And it should be established that homosexuals have since a long time come out as a community into this wide social arena of Sri Lanka. The noteworthy aspect of homosexuals in the Sri Lankan social context is that their sexual orientation appears problematic to the local social order; as it challenges the long established norms and perceptions of gender roles. This situation is what leads to the mass societys understanding of homosexuality as a problem or in other words a threat to the Sri Lankan social order.

It is these perceptions and attitudes of people in society that leads to a process of discrimination and labeling, which may adversely affect the minority of homosexuals in society. This phenomenon would be explored initially in this study, to establish the existing social patterns of discrimination on homosexuals. Thereafter as an applied sociological research; this study would focus on the existing socio-legal mechanisms governing homosexuality, in keeping with the problems that continue to occur in general society. The study would ideally attempt to propose the socially demanded changes under the existing socio-legal framework of our country, in order to accept and recognize the minority homosexual communities into the mainstream social order.

In terms of analyzing the patterns of social discrimination the research would focus on various social establishments starting from schools, workplaces and local authorities; in order to understand and objectively prove the existence of discriminatory patterns on homosexuals within the social context. The study would also allocate space to look into the impact of discrimination on the homosexual community of our society. This aspect of the study would be dealt through the topic of homophobia, where the psychological implications of these patters would be highlighted. Once the problems concerning the homosexual community of society is dealt with, the research would proceed to study the existing legal framework on homosexuality. The nature and scope of section 365, 365 A of the penal code would be elaborated, in keeping with its effects on the homosexual community. The study would further continue to analyze the status of homosexual laws of other countries of the world and compare and contrast the situation of homosexuality with that of Sri Lankas. As with regard to the conclusion of this research, an attempt would be made to propose changes to the existing socio-legal framework of our country concerning homosexuality, in keeping with a view to promote the rights and standards of the homosexual community in Sri Lankan society.

Chapter 01: Research Background

1.1 Research Problem

In this study there would be two research problems which would be analyzed. The first being the existing patterns of social discrimination on homosexuals within the Sri Lankan social context. The second problem under study would be the incompetence of the existing legal framework to guarantee the equal rights of homosexuals in the society. The very nature of these research questions bases our study on a number of hypotheses. The first hypothesis being that the existing social system orchestrates the patterns of social discrimination on homosexuals. And the second hypothesis based on the idea that the present legal framework is responsible to the deteriorating standards of homosexuals, and that it demands significant alterations.

In outlining the first research problem, the research study would focus on the patterns of social discrimination that takes place concerning the homosexual minority of the society. In exploring this topic high emphasis would be given to understand the existing gender expectations of our society and culture. The expected role of a man or the expected role of a female, which is imposed upon individuals by the social order, would be focused in this regard. Upon understanding these social expectations of gender; the status of homosexuals which trespasses these gender norms in the society would be looked into. The research would make an attempt identify the instruments of homosexual discrimination in society; may it be religion, culture, or discriminatory laws. The institutions of homosexual discrimination would be considered in this study starting from the early school environment up to the working organizations of Sri Lankan society.

In terms of the second research problem, the centric focus would be on the Sri Lankan legal framework concerning homosexuality. The prime statute of Sri Lanka concerning homosexuality, section 365 of the Penal code would be elaborated from different points of views, in order to prove its incompetence to cater the constitutional principle of equality. The research would also concentrate on other laws of the country such as adoption laws that appear to be problematic and incomplete to meet the natural needs of the homosexual communities. The argument of decriminalizing homosexuality would be presented in this study; comparing the processes of decriminalizing anti homosexual laws in countries such as India, America and European countries. The focus of the study would aim at providing proposals for legal changes that would safeguard the rights of equality, privacy and liberty of the homosexual communities in Sri Lanka.

1.2 Research Objectives

As this research study would be carried out under applied sociological method, it would not be purely concerned on the problems of homosexual lifestyles or the reasons behind their different sexual orientation. Instead this study would be focused on providing suitable socio-legal framework in order to accept and recognize the minority homosexual community in the mainstream society. And in terms of proposing such a framework the researcher would give due consideration to the existing social order and laws; and emphasize on the need of safeguarding the rights and dignities of the homosexual community in such a proposed framework.

The objectives of this research could basically be listed out under the following points; * An attempt to understand the deteriorating standards of homosexuals in the Sri Lankan society.

* Looking into the existing socio-legal framework of Sri Lanka with regard to Homosexuality; and how it affects the lives of homosexual individuals.

* Making recommendations to the existing social order of Sri Lanka; in order to accept and recognize the homosexual community in the mainstream society, thus safeguarding their rights, dignity and liberties.

1.3 Research Methodology and Data Collection

As mentioned earlier this would be an applied sociological research in terms of research methodology. An Applied research is concerned with search for ways of using scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. It focuses on analyzing and solving social and real life problems. The findings become basis of framing programs and policies, based on the principles of pure research (Ahuja, 2009) . Thereby as this research would be conducted on an applied research basis, the study would be aiming at finding solutions to the problem of deteriorating homosexual rights in Sri Lankan society.

As part of the framework of applied researches an attempt would be made in this study to highlight the problems faced by homosexuals in Sri Lankan society; as consequence to the trends of social discrimination. And upon further examining the current socio- legal realities rooted in our social system; this research would attempt to promote recommendations on improving the standards of homosexuality. These final recommendations would be a basis for framing programs and policies for the promotion of welfare and rights of Sri Lankan homosexuals.

In terms of Data Collection methods of this research, the researcher would depend on basically two sampling methods to collect data as; * Purposive/Judgmental Sampling

* Snowball Sampling

Under the purposive sampling method the researcher purposely chooses persons, who in his judgment about some appropriate characteristics required of the sampling members are thought to be relevant to the research topic and easily available to him (Ahuja, 2009). In terms of this research the researcher would reach out to those who in his opinion are best suited to obtain information pertaining to the contents of this research. Based on this sampling method the researcher would include the sample members representing the LGBT community (referring to homosexuals) and also the sample members representing the general society.

Another sample used for the purpose of collecting data would be the Snowball Sampling method. In this technique, the researcher begins the research with the few respondents who are known and available to him. Subsequently these respondents give other names who meet the criteria of the research who in turn give more new names. This process continues until an adequate number of respondents are discovered (Ahuja, 2009). Based on this sampling technique the researcher would approach available contacts that suit the criteria of the research; and thereafter proceed for others based on the recommendations from the original respondents. This process would be followed in terms of gathering respondents from both the LGBT community as well as the respondents from the general society.

The research frame would be based on respondents available to the researcher within the city limits of the Colombo district. The researcher in terms of finding the sample respondents representing the LGBT community approached leading organizations committed to the development of gay rights in Sri Lanka. The researcher in this regard has approached two of such groups; one being the EQUAL GROUND organization (names of organizations published with the consent of its representatives) and the other being a peer based support group committed for representing gay rights known as Sakhi Collaborations (names published with consent). The research also includes a couple of individuals representing the LGBT community whom were reached separately by the researcher. The researcher also interviewed a leading legal practitioner in order to obtain views and arguments on the present legal framework pertaining to homosexuality.

In looking at the tools of data collection of this research, the researcher uses a multiplicity of techniques to collect data in order to fill the content of this research. Accordingly the Key Informant method was used to collect information from leading figures representing the two key organizations used in this research. The importance of a key informant method is to gain information on the general status of homosexual rights in many spheres of society, from the point of view of an organization which is involved in activism of promoting homosexual rights in society. The experiences, information of different cases reported, provision of various services to cater the needs of homosexuals are some of the important contributions that can be obtained through this key informant method interview.

The researcher also conducted two focus group interviews consisting of respondents representing the LGBT community, with the assistance of organizations representing LGBT rights in Sri Lanka. One focus group interview was held in Thimbirigasyaya Colombo which was organized by Sakhi collaborations; and another focus group interview was held in Kirulapana Colombo organized by EQUAL GROUND. Both these interviews had around 6-8 respondents each representing the LGBT community. The focus group interviews are used to collect data from a group of members belonging to the same category, where the collection of data through an interview is done simultaneously for all members of that group.

The focus group interview was carried out as an informal discussion where the respondents were freely allowed to express their views pertaining to the topics provided for them by the researcher. A questionnaire was also distributed amongst the LGBT community in order to further obtain their views on different areas of this research content. In obtaining data from respondents representing the general society the researcher has used a sample which was limited for students receiving higher education within the age group of 18-25. The purpose of restricting the scope of this sample as above was to reflect the views of the future generation with regard to homosexuality.

The research also used a number of print material provided by organizations to the researcher, which were of use in terms of understanding various important socio legal dimensions pertaining to homosexuality. The researcher also had access to publications of some organizations, which reports of case studies on homosexuality and other documents containing rights and policy frameworks concerning homosexuality which were used throughout this study.

1.5Research Ethics

As the research deals with a sensitive and controversial topic there will be many ethical safeguards adopted throughout this study in order to uphold the principle of Non Harm to the participants of the research as well as the general public. Some of the ethical considerations which would be adopted in this research are pointed out as follows; I. Informed Consent- The researcher would explain the nature, content and scope of the research to the participants and would obtain their Consent before making them a part of the research

II. Anonymity safeguarded- The researcher would protect the identity of the participants as per their request and may use pseudonyms in this regard. Furthermore the researcher would not disclose information that may reveal the identity of the respondent based on the sensitivity of such information. However the names of organizations committed for homosexual rights, used as a sample in this research would be used with the prior approval of representatives of such organizations and groups.

III. Confidentiality protected- The confidentiality of information provided would be protected at all times. And as per the request of the participant certain information would not be reported in the research. IV. The principle of Non Harm- The entire research would be based on the principle of Non Harm, and thereby would not disclose any such information that would be of detriment either to participants or any particular section of community. V. Providing access of research report before completion- The research report before being completed would be provided to the respondents in order to get their feed back as well as to allow them to see if any sensitive information affecting their interests has been published.

Chapter 02:Definition of Concepts

In order to proceed with the research report it is important to understand the concepts at use in this study. As this research deals with the topic of homosexuality there are various concepts that need to be pre understood, as homosexuality could be perceived from many perspectives in society. The social perceptions on homosexuality would also be extensively dealt with in this research, thereby the negative social reaction towards homosexuality would be considered in the form of Social Discrimination which too encompasses different dimensions. There would also be a legal analysis in this study which would be elaborated in depth; thereby a number of legal concepts need to be properly defined in order to better understand the direction of this research.

2.1 Sexual Orientation

In understanding Sexual Orientation it should be borne in mind that this concept has been heavily nurtured by social perceptions and attitudes, thereby it is a concept subjected to much abuse by society. For example in a society, attitudes on a persons sexual orientation are very subjective, where a simple gesture could be interpreted as overly feminine or masculine and thereby form perceptions on the character of such person. Therefore for the purpose of this study it is important to objectively understand this concept. In order to serve the above purpose, Sexual Orientation could be defined in two aspects as; * Emotional- Sexual Attraction of Persons * Emotional- Sexual Conduct of Persons

Under the first aspect we look on how a subject person may share emotional or sexual intimacy with others of their opposite sex (heterosexual), others of both sexes (Bi Sexual) or others of ones own sex (homosexual). However under this aspect it is only the emotional and sexual attraction that would be considered and it does not look into the actual conduct of such peoples relationships (Wintemute, 1995). This would explain a situation where a person who has emotional-sexual attraction to members of his own sex; continues to hide his feelings from society and lives a socially accepted heterosexual lifestyle.

However the emotional-sexual conduct of persons goes one more step ahead and covers situations where people who share emotional sexual attraction to others, manifest such attraction by conduct. Once again this refers to all categories of sexual orientation including heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual (Wintemute, 1995). As actual homosexual relationship between two persons that manifest their sexual and emotional attraction to each other through conduct, would be included under this aspect. In understanding sexuality or sexual perceptions in the larger society, it is important to bear in mind these two dimensions of sexual orientation.

Upon understanding the concept of sexual orientation, it is important to move on to the main consideration of this research that being homosexuality. For the purpose of this research the term Homosexuality would be used on four categories of sexual orientations as: LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi Sexual and Transgender). Thereby it is of pivotal importance to define these four types of sexual orientations which would be the subject of this research study.

* Lesbian are referred to women who are emotionally, sexually or spiritually attracted to another woman. The attraction to other women based on the other criteria as well as manifestations of such attractions, could both be construed as Lesbianism (Equal Ground, 2010). In terms of tracing the origins of the term Lesbian it dates back to the Greek era, where inhabitants of an island call Lesbos led towards the birth of the term Lesbian. The inhabitants of this island were said to be lesbian in their sexual orientation and there are historical records of love poems written by a Greek poet called Sappho, who describes love and romance between women of this island (Wakkumbura).

* Gay are used to refer to Males who are emotionally, sexually and spiritually attracted or manifest their attraction by conduct of intimate relationships with other men (Equal Ground, 2010). Homosexuality in general usage was much associated with Gays or male to male sexual conduct. Many religious interpretations and cultural discourses have articulated on gay sexuality many a time in history. * Bi Sexual- This is a term used on persons who are sexually, emotionally and spiritually attracted to both Men and women (Equal Ground, 2010). And engage in intimate conduct expressing such attraction with both sexes.

* Transgender- This is a broad term used to describe people who express their gender differently from the general expected norm of society (Equal Ground, 2010). Many gender groups such as Transsexuals, Cross dressers, Kothis or Nachi communities, would fall under the umbrella of Transgender.

Transgender basically would refer to a situation where ones biological sexuality conflicts with their psychological sexuality. Thereby paving way for a situation where one would act differently from the expected gender norms; such as by different gender expressions as wearing opposite gender clothes. In another sense transgender could even include persons that actually are emotionally and sexually related to another same sex person. Even though transgender does not fall within the ambit of the definition homosexuality, for the purpose of this research the term homosexuality would also refer to transgender communities.

Even in Sri Lankan society we find these transgender communities such as cross dressers and Nachis (a transgender group that expresses their gender differently). As transgender people are making gender expressions against the established social gender norms, such as males wearing female clothing and applying lipsticks and use of other female accessories; they become more prone for social discrimination. Therefore the transgender communities are also included to the scope of this research study.

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