“United and Strengthened” Colombo PRIDE

By June 10, 2024 Regional

Colombo PRIDE 2023 was one of the biggest Colombo PRIDE celebrations we (EQUAL GROUND) had in our 20 year journey. Throughout the month of June last year, EG saw a vast number of individuals from all walks of life enjoying Colombo PRIDE. The celebrations also included collaborations with community organisations alongside EQUAL GROUND under this year’s theme, “United and Strengthened”. EG saw a number of young participants from the Queer community who enjoyed and celebrated PRIDE with us. EG organised the first ever peaceful PRIDE walk and the assistance and support we received from Sri Lanka Police was admirable. Sri Lanka Police deployed more than 75 police officers to the PRIDE Walk and Food Festival to ensure the safety of the PRIDE Walk participants. My team and the support we received from our friends, family, and allies made Colombo PRIDE a success. 

What were some of the main advocacy messages coming out of your event, and why were these important?

EQUAL GROUND has held annual PRIDE celebrations – an important event in the Sri Lankan LGBTIQ calendar –  since 2005. Colombo PRIDE offers a diverse range of events which are held to encourage the Queer community and its allies to come out and be proud. It is also an educational and sensitising exercise where the message of diversity is addressed in a holistic way paving for better understanding and acceptance of the Queer community by the larger Sri Lankan citizenship. 

How were you able to involve different interest stakeholders to your event?

John Keells Holdings has been a strong corporate ally of EG for the past couple of years. This year JKH partnered up with hosting Colombo PRIDE. Sri Lanka Police as I mentioned earlier provided security during the Colombo PRIDE walk. There was strong support from the diplomatic and corporate community at the Pride Walk and other events.

What are some challenges for you in organizing your event?

EG received information about a group of individuals attempting to sabotage Colombo PRIDE 2023 in cyberspace. EG filed a complaint with the Cyber Crime unit to ensure the safety of the participants and the staff. Unfortunately, we also received a barrage of very insulting and discriminatory social media aimed at me and EQUAL GROUND which tried to undermine our Pride Walk.  It is sad that these organisations and individuals showed a division in the LGBTIQ community by unfairly targeting and insulting us on social media.

How have you been able to meaningfully engage with the private sector? 

DE&I sensitising programs are an integral part of EQUAL GROUND’S work as they make workplaces safe for LGBTIQ employees, thereby improving their ability to stay employed and become economically independent. As these DE&I sessions are one off sessions, EG decided to develop an e- learning tool – partnering up with a company specialising in the creation of e-Learning tools to enable companies to be more proactive and engaged in integrating understanding and support of the LGBTIQ community within corporate settings. The module was developed in all 3 languages and it was successfully launched in March this year. 

How are you preparing for the up-coming Colombo PRIDE event, and what exciting things can we expect? 

This year’s Colombo PRIDE would take a different face as  EQUAL GROUND has arranged a three day  PRIDE festival along with the PRIDE walk. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the EQUAL GROUND and 20 years of Colombo PRIDE as well. All arrangements have been made for the RAINBOW PRIDE CARNIVAL from 14th to 16th with Onsite Digital Photo Competition, Onsite Poster Competition, Open Mic Competitions, a Food Festival and a Sundown Disco! The Colombo PRIDE Walk will once again grace the streets of Colombo with full permission from the Sri Lanka Police. Colombo PRIDE will come to an end with the Rainbow Bus Parade, Rainbow Kite Festival and Party on the 29th of June. 

About the contributor:

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera (she/her)

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, co-founder of the Women’s Support Group in 1999, is the founder and Executive Director of EQUAL GROUND (2004-to present).  In November 2022, she received the APCOM Community Hero award for her work for the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka and in April this year she was recognized as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2024.  In 2018 she filed the first case of its kind at the CEDAW committee at the United Nations in 2018, challenging discriminatory laws in her country that criminalises consenting adult same sex sexual relationships between women. 

EQUAL GROUND is a nonprofit organisation seeking economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning/Queer (LGBTIQ) community of Sri Lanka. We are committed to creating a safe space for all LGBTIQ individuals and to providing opportunities for self-help including mental well-being, economic, social and political empowerment, access to health, education, housing and legal protection for the LGBTIQ community.EQUAL GROUND is one of the truly diverse organisations in Sri Lanka which includes the wider identities of the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka as well as our heterosexual allies and friends.Founded in 2004 EQUAL GROUND is also the oldest organisation of this nature functioning in the country and celebrates it 20th Anniversary on 10th June 2024!

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