It is important to understand how LGBT rights in Sri Lanka work before traveling to the country as a Western tourist. Those traveling from Europe or America may encounter many cultural differences regarding this issue and it is important to be prepared when visiting Sri Lanka from abroad.
This article explains whether Sri Lanka is LGBT friendly and what the national laws are surrounding the matter of same-sex and trans couples. It also details the most important information you need to know regarding Sri Lanka LGBT travel and the possible LGBT issues in Sri Lanka that might arise on a vacation.
What Are the Rules on Homosexuality in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lankan law officially states that homosexuality is illegal in the country. Nevertheless, this law is not often enforced by the national police and no citizens have been prosecuted for same-sex offenses for over 60 years.
Whilst it is unlikely you will be prosecuted for being a same-sex couple, there are no protections under Sri Lankan law against LGBT discrimination. The country additionally doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.
Sri Lanka’s legal system is gradually adjusting the legal code to allow the country to adjust its social norms. However, at present, Sri Lanka is one of a number of Asian countries in which public displays of affection (heterosexual or otherwise) are not entirely welcome, although this is starting to change as a result of increasing levels of tourism.
How Should LGBT People Prepare to Travel to Sri Lanka
Whilst the country is not LGBT friendly broadly speaking, same-sex or trans couples will have no problems traveling safely in the country and enjoying an enjoyable vacation. That said, visitors should be aware of some of the cultural norms of the country and be prepared to adjust to some of the local norms.
First of all, be aware strong public displays of affection are not advised. However, this is a social custom that both LGBT couples and heterosexual couples should remain mindful of as this behaviour is considered taboo by locals. Tourists are advised instead to maintain behavior that is respectful of local norms during a trip to Sri Lanka. Whilst it isn’t likely that you will encounter persecution if you behave like a couple in public, discretion is recommended.
When booking hotel rooms you can still reserve accommodation together and stay in the same room. However, it is recommended to try to stay in a room with separate beds and not introduce yourself as a couple.
In most cases though, LGBT travelers will find most mainstream hotels quite relaxed and tolerant of gay and trans tourists. It is possible in the worst-case scenarios that hotels in more remote and rural locations could refuse to host you if they suspect you are in a same-sex relationship, although this is quite unlikely and almost unheard of.
Furthermore, travelers to Colombo will find areas that are somewhat LGBT friendly, where they can travel more openly. More cosmopolitan neighborhoods like Col 1, Col 3 and Col 7 are considered relatively tolerant of same-sex relationships. However, despite these more tolerant locations, tourists will not find locations such as gay bars or clubs like you may find in other countries at present in Sri Lanka.
Tips for Traveling to Sri Lanka as an LGBT Tourist
Whilst attitudes to LGBT relationships in Sri Lanka are becoming slowly more positive, the country has not yet fully accepted the rights of the gay community yet. Therefore, try to follow these tips when traveling to the country with your partner.
- Avoid public displays of affection away from hotels and tourist resorts
- Dress modestly and conforming to the national clothing norms
- Book hotel rooms with separate beds if staying at a hotel with less experience catering to western tourists
Whilst Sri Lankan customs are quite different from those in the West regarding the subject of LGBT couples, it is still a safe and enjoyable place to enjoy a holiday as a gay or trans tourist. Discretion is advised during your stay, although it is very unlikely you will encounter much in the way of harassment.
Before traveling to Sri Lanka, it is absolutely crucial that tourists from 21 visa waiver countries, such as Japan or the USA, have a validated Sri Lanka Visa. Visitors to the country simply need to fill out an online visa application, which, once submitted, can be approved within minutes and securely delivered to the applicant’s personal email address.