Sri Lankan humanists urge the government to end discriminatory legal system

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 17 February 2022

On 8 February 2022, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka (CEMSL) submitted its proposals to the ‘One Country One Law Presidential Task Force’ appointed by His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. CEMSL welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the creation of a fairer country for all.

Members of CEMSL back in 2018, during their 2nd AGM. Faces are pixelated for security.

Under the current legal system, four religions are recognized by law: Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. The authorities’ narrow interpretation of “freedom of religion” implicitly excludes the non-religious from legal protections. In addition, matters of family law – such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance – are governed by the customary law of the individual’s ethnic or religious group. Such a system is inherently discriminatory.

CEMSL’s submission contains 21 key proposals for the consideration of the Presidential Task Force, including the following:

  • Ensure legal and State recognition of atheists and irreligious people
  • All existing parallel legal systems, including personal laws, acts, and clauses, should be abolished, while ensuring the incorporation of any beneficial clauses into the country’s common law, so that all Sri Lankan’s may benefit.
  • Abolish the current ethnic and religion-based segregated school system
  • any materials containing and promoting violence, terrorism, hatred discrimination should not be allowed to be taught, recited, printed, digitalized, displayed or distributed within the country in any language and in any formats such as textbooks, religious books or holy scriptures. 
  • Teach both Tamil and Sinhalese as equal compulsory subjects from grade one to strengthen the unity among Sri Lankans
  • Ensure LGBTQIA+ rights and recognize their gender and sexual identity and their right to choose partners, and include members of the community in the consultation. 
  • Ban genital mutilation of minors regardless of their gender, religious or ethnic background
  • Legalize abortion rights
  • Establish a universal minimum age of marriage at 18 for all Sri Lankans

CEMSL stressed that if the government implements one law for all, it will be a historic juncture in the history of Sri Lanka. 

Rishvin spokesperson for the CEMSL

Speaking on behalf of CEMSL, Rishvin Ismath stated:

As humanists, our aim is to ensure all humans are treated equally and fairly. Bias and misogyny are embedded in Sri Lanka’s existing personal laws; a parallel Justice system based on superstitious belief is a threat to non-discrimination.

“Legislating Common Law and one legal system based on secular humanist values would be a remarkable achievement in the history of Sri Lanka that would constitute a strong step towards establishing a nation committed to equal rights to all, regardless of  gender, religion, race or ethnicity. If the new system were to ban male and female genital mutilation of minors, it would set a good example to many other countries too.

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