Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and domestic violence, but enforcement of the law was inconsistent. Section 363 of the penal code does not explicitly criminalize rape of men. Section 365 B (1), which is gender neutral, criminalizes “grave sexual abuse.” The prescribed penalties for rape are seven to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least 200,000 rupees ($1,333). For domestic violence, a victim can obtain a protection order for one year and request a maintenance allowance. The law only prohibits spousal rape if the spouses are legally separated.
Women’s organizations reported the police and judiciary responses were inadequate. The police Bureau for the Prevention of Abuse of Women and Children conducted awareness programs in schools and at the grassroots level to encourage women to file complaints. Police continued to establish women’s units in police stations. Services to assist survivors of rape and domestic violence, such as crisis centers, legal aid, and counseling, were generally scarce nationwide due to a lack of funding.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Sri Lankan Muslims have historically practiced FGM/C, but it was not a part of public discourse until recent years when media articles drew attention to the practice. There were no statistics on the current prevalence of FGM/C in the country, which does not have laws against FGM/C.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Sexual harassment was common and was a particularly widespread problem in public transport.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: Women have equal rights to men under civil and criminal law. Adjudication of questions related to family law, including marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, varied according to the customary law of each ethnic or religious group, resulting in discrimination.
Birth Registration: Children obtain citizenship from their parents.
Child Abuse: Most child abuse complaints received by the National Child Protection Authority related to violence inflicted on children, and the rest of the complaints addressed related issues such as cruelty to children, deprivation of a child’s right to education, sexual abuse, and child labor. Teachers, school principals, and religious instructors reportedly sexually abused children. In a number of child rape cases, government officials were the suspected perpetrators. Civil society organizations working on children’s issues asserted children had insufficient mechanisms to report domestic violence or abuse safely. Although police stations are supposed to have an officer dedicated to handling abuse complaints from women and children, the government did not consistently implement this practice nationwide.
Early and Forced Marriage: Civil law sets the minimum legal age for marriage at 18 for both men and women, although girls may marry at age 16 with parental consent. According to the penal code, sexual intercourse with a girl under 16 years of age, with or without her consent, amounts to statutory rape. The provision, however, does not apply to married Muslim girls above the age of 12. The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, which applies only to Muslims, permits the marriage of girls as young as 12 at the consent of the bride’s father or other male relative. The bride’s consent is not required.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography, but authorities did not always enforce the law. The minimum age of consensual sex was 16.
Child sex tourism remained a problem.
Displaced Children: IDP welfare centers and relocation sites exposed children to the same difficult conditions as adult IDPs and returnees in these areas.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish population remained very small. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
Various laws forbid discrimination against any person with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel, other public transportation, and access to health care. In practice, though, discrimination occurred in employment, education, and provision of state services, including public transportation. Children with disabilities attended school at a lower rate than other persons. There were regulations on accessibility, but accommodation for access to buildings and public transportation for persons with disabilities was rare.
Both local and Indian-origin Tamils maintained they suffered longstanding, systematic discrimination in university education, government employment, housing, health services, language laws, and procedures for naturalization of noncitizens. Throughout the country, but especially in the north and east, Tamils reported security forces regularly monitored and harassed members of their community, especially activists and former or suspected former LTTE members.
The government had a variety of ministries and presidentially appointed bodies designed to address the social and development needs of the Tamil minority. The government has implemented a number of confidence-building measures to address grievances of the Tamil community. It also replaced military governors of the Northern and Eastern provinces with civilians. The Office of National Unity and Reconciliation, established by the president in 2016, continued to coordinate the government’s reconciliation efforts. The office focuses on promoting social integration to build an inclusive society, securing language rights for all citizens, supporting a healing process within war-affected communities via the government’s proposed Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation, and nonrecurrence of the violence. On April 17, the Tamil National Alliance and Defense Ministry initiated a formal dialogue on returning military-held lands in the Northern and Eastern provinces. In August army Chief Major General Mahesh Senanayake publicly committed the military to prosecuting personnel who committed criminal acts during and after the conflict, many of which were committed against the Tamil community.
Buddhist nationalist monks reportedly instigated attacks on Muslims and their property. These included more than 20 attacks on Muslim places of worship and shops from April to June. Authorities arrested four alleged perpetrators, including one police officer, all of whom were members of the Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena.
The country’s indigenous people, known as Veddas, reportedly numbered fewer than 1,000. Some preferred to maintain their traditional way of life, and the law generally protected them. They freely participated in political and economic life without legal restrictions, but some did not have legal documents.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law criminalized consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. Although prosecutions have been rare, human rights organizations reported police used the threat of arrest to assault, harass, and sexually and monetarily extort LGBTI individuals. Those convicted of engaging in same-sex sexual activity in private or in public face 10-years’ imprisonment. Antidiscrimination laws did not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Transgender persons continued to face societal discrimination, including arbitrary detention, mistreatment, and discrimination accessing employment, housing, and health care.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons who provided HIV prevention services and groups at high risk of infection reportedly suffered discrimination. In addition hospital officials reportedly publicized the HIV-positive status of their clients and occasionally refused to provide healthcare to HIV-positive persons.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Sources stated some Buddhist monks regularly tried to close down Christian and Muslim places of worship on the grounds they lacked the Ministry of Buddha Sasana’s approval. The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka documented 79 cases of attacks on churches, intimidation and violence against pastors and their congregations, and obstruction of worship services as of November.