What is the legality of prostitution in Sri Lanka?

What is the legality of prostitution in Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka, prostitution is technically illegal under the Vagrants Ordinance, enacted in 1841. However, the law does not directly address the act of selling sex. Instead, it focuses on activities related to prostitution, such as soliciting, running brothels, and living off the earnings of prostitution. While the law does not specifically criminalize the act of providing sexual services for money, the indirect nature of the legislation makes it difficult for sex workers to operate legally in the country.

What penalties and enforcement measures exist for prostitution in Sri Lanka?

There are several penalties and enforcement measures in place for individuals involved in prostitution-related activities in Sri Lanka. These include:

  • Soliciting: Soliciting for the purpose of prostitution is punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine.
  • Running a brothel: Operating a brothel is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine.
  • Living off the earnings of prostitution: Those who knowingly live off the earnings of a prostitute can face up to two years in prison and a fine.
  • Procuring a person for prostitution: Procuring or attempting to procure a person for the purpose of prostitution is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine.
  • Detaining a person in a brothel: Detaining a person in a brothel against their will is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine.

Despite these penalties, enforcement of prostitution laws in Sri Lanka is often inconsistent and can vary depending on the local police force.

How is prostitution referred to locally in Sri Lanka?

Prostitution in Sri Lanka is often referred to locally as Ganikawo, which translates to women who sell sex or sex workers. This term is used to describe individuals who engage in prostitution, either by choice or due to circumstances such as poverty or trafficking.

What is the history of prostitution in Sri Lanka?

Prostitution has a long history in Sri Lanka, dating back to ancient times. The practice was tolerated and even regulated in some historical periods, with certain classes of prostitutes enjoying social status and protection under the law. However, the British colonial government enacted the Vagrants Ordinance in 1841, criminalizing various activities related to prostitution.

Since then, the legal status of prostitution in Sri Lanka has remained largely unchanged, with efforts to reform the law often met with resistance from religious and conservative groups. However, the country has seen a growing awareness of the issues faced by sex workers, such as exploitation, violence, and lack of access to healthcare, leading to calls for decriminalization and improved protections for those involved in the industry.

How do government laws and links relate to prostitution in Sri Lanka?

While prostitution is not directly criminalized in Sri Lanka, the government has implemented various laws and policies aimed at addressing the issue, including:

  • Anti-trafficking legislation: Sri Lanka has enacted laws to combat human trafficking, which can include trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. These laws provide for severe penalties for traffickers and aim to protect victims of trafficking.
  • Healthcare policies: The government has introduced measures to promote the health and well-being of sex workers, such as HIV/AIDS prevention programs and access to reproductive health services. However, the criminalization of prostitution-related activities can make it difficult for sex workers to access these services without fear of arrest or harassment.
  • Social welfare programs: Some government initiatives aim to provide support and assistance to individuals involved in prostitution, such as vocational training and income-generating projects. These programs seek to address the underlying factors that can lead to involvement in the sex trade, such as poverty and lack of economic opportunities.

Despite these efforts, the legal framework surrounding prostitution in Sri Lanka remains complex and often contradictory, with sex workers facing significant challenges in accessing their rights and protections under the law.

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