July 2023 | Parliament approves new anti-corruption law
Sri Lanka’s parliament approved a long-awaited anti-corruption bill on 20 July as part of the prerequisites of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package, approved in March. The bill increases the powers and resources allocated to the Bribery and Corruption Commission, tasked with investigating bribery and corruption charges and offences among private and public sector officials. The law also mandates electoral candidates to declare their assets and liabilities, which would be made public ahead of elections, as well as provides protection for whistleblowers. Civil society organizations and rights experts have welcomed the law, with Transparency International adding that "A lot of it will depend on enforcement of the law, whether law enforcement authorities will be empowered to be free of political interference and also not have to self-censor, to act without fear or favour during investigations."
May 2023 | Sri Lanka takes steps toward decriminalizing homosexuality
The Supreme Court ruled on 9 May that a bill seeking to decriminalize homosexuality is not unconstitutional, clearing the pathway for parliament to discuss and vote on reforming the law. The decision marks a significant milestone for LGBTQIA+ rights in the country, with campaigners hopeful that it will provide an opportunity for long-awaited reform. The bill, introduced in April, aims to make the sexual conduct between two consenting adults of the same sex a non-punishable offence.
April 2023 | New draft Anti-Terrorism Bill receives widespread condemnation
Sri Lanka’s government gazetted the Anti-Terrorism Bill on 22 March, intended to replace the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Human rights experts and civil society organizations (CSOs) have criticized the new draft bill for perpetuating provisions used in the PTA to facilitate abuse and silence dissent. The proposed bill allegedly contains overbroad and vague language that defines any anti-government political activity as terrorism, which would give authorities broad powers to detain people on criminal speech offences. Rights experts are urging the government to drop or revise the draft bill to prevent the continued restrictions on civic freedoms. As of 6 April, the government delayed tabling the bill to consider comments and suggestions from the public and CSOs until 31 May.
March 2023 | First National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security adopted
Sri Lanka’s parliament adopted its first National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) for the 2023-2027 period, with assistance from the Japanese government and UN Women. Launched officially on 8 March, WPS “adds to the country’s legal and policy frameworks to protect and empower women in line with the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325 (2000).” The action plan also aims to provide targeted aid for women made vulnerable to war, violence and environmental insecurity.