Lankas LGBT community cautiously optimistic

“Strangely, no government has yet shut Pride down,” Flamer-Caldera says. “This, I believe, is because we have a strategy to include foreign diplomats and heterosexual allies in all our events, thus making it difficult for the government to shut us down or cause disruption.”Still, it’s not easy to work on these issues in Sri Lanka, says Jude Fernando, executive director of Heart to Heart, a community organization that supports men who have sex with men, as well as trans women.The main problem, he believes, is that people are afraid to come out because of the Sri Lankan Penal Code, as well as societal reactions. “I was young. I would never say that now,” says the woman, who asked Daily Xtra for confidentiality to avoid the possible repercussions of coming out publicly. And yet, this is a country whose capital, Colombo, has hosted Pride celebrations for the last 10 years, albeit without a parade.Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, executive director of Equal Ground, the non-profit working toward LGBT rights that also organizes Pride, says organizers skip the parade to keep people safe.Instead, she says, “we hold different events such as fashion drag shows, dramas, workshops, art and photo exhibitions, film festivals, parties and rainbow kite festivals on the beach.” In the small island nation of Sri Lanka, life for LGBT people can be a struggle. Like many other South Asian societies, Sri Lanka is very religious and socially conservative. While there are organizations working to further gay rights here, such as Equal Ground and Heart to Heart, those in the community still regularly experience discrimination, ostracism and even violence. Sri Lanka’s LGBT community is cautiously optimistic of having their rights protected under the new Government, Daily Xtra reported.“I’m sorry I’m a lesbian,” a Sri Lankan woman says she told her mother, after her sister outed her. Over the years, Pride in Colombo has grown from a handful of people to up to 2,000 people attending annually. “If anything happens, the Penal Code is there,” Fernando says.Though no one has been convicted under sections 365 or 365a since Sri Lankan independence in 1948, the law still stands as a threat and is used by both state and non-state actors to harass the LGBT community.Community organizations that distribute condoms have allegedly had their staff harassed by police for promoting homosexuality. Heart to Heart now has an advocacy program with police, educating them about the prevention of HIV/AIDS.Equal Ground has been under state security surveillance, Flamer-Caldera says.“Central Intelligence Services, the Criminal Investigation Department actually, raided some of our partner organizations in rural areas. We’ve had our phones tapped and were followed . . . files were taken,” she alleges.Police are also accused of using an old British vagrancy ordinance to prohibit loitering on the street, at an officer’s discretion. Some officers, it’s alleged, are more likely to object to masculine-looking lesbians and trans women found “loitering” in public spaces.The degree of harassment may differ from urban to rural areas.Kiru, who asked Daily Xtra to publish only her first name to protect her safety, says she can live relatively openly in Colombo, but back in her home village near Jaffna, she says she would be killed if she were open about her sexuality.But Flamer-Caldera says Equal Ground has found success hosting workshops and even occasional Pride celebrations in rural parts of the country. She says they explain LGBT issues in terms of human rights, something rural communities may better relate to than Colombo urbanites.Wherever they live, some LGBT Sri Lankans worry that coming out could cost them their jobs.“It’s really bad when it comes to work, with family, amongst friends, everywhere. It’s really difficult,” says one woman who asked Daily Xtra not to publish even her first name. Well known in her field of work, the woman worries that if it were publicly known that she preferred women to men, she would be out of a job.But things are slowly changing for the better, many LGBT Sri Lankans believe.Like other communities in Sri Lanka, the LGBT community isn’t sure what to expect from the new government that came to power in January 2015 and won a subsequent election in August 2015.“During the old government, we had a lot of issues,” Flamer-Caldera says. “But the minute the new government has come on board, it has been as though this huge weight has been lifted off of all of our shoulders. I think every single citizen feels that. But for how long?”Others share her cautious optimism, though they remain wary.One gay man living in Colombo sees gaining acceptance within Sri Lankan society as the real key to making progress for the LGBT community there.“More than asking for rights for the LGBT community, we need social acceptance,” says Roshan, who asked Daily Xtra to publish only his first name.The community has to get stronger and more unified, Roshan says. “Everyone should come together and work together and then maybe we will have acceptance.” (Colombo Gazette) A remnant of British colonialism, sections 365 and 365a of the Sri Lankan Penal Code criminalize homosexual acts using the terms “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” (365) and “gross indecency” (365a). It’s a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.Initially interpreted as only prohibiting sexual acts between men, the sections were broadened in 1995 in an ironic attempt to be more inclusive and gender-neutral by criminalizing homosexual acts for both men and women. read more

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Scouting Indiana A look at the 2015 Hoosiers

Indiana junior running back Jordan Howard (8) runs with the ball during a game against Florida International . Credit: Courtesy of Haley Ward / Indiana Daily StudentThe last time the Indiana football program was undefeated through four games, George H.W. Bush was the president and the average price of gas was $1.16 per gallon. It was 1990. It’s been a quarter century but coach Kevin Wilson finally has the Hoosiers 4-0 again.Nonconference play is over and now they have their biggest test to date on Saturday as No. 1 Ohio State is scheduled to be in Bloomington, Indiana, for the Big Ten season opener.Here is a look at the 2015 Hoosiers:Time of possessionA key reason why Indiana is off to its hot start is because it is controlling the clock.In three of their four games, the Hoosiers won the possession battle over their respective opponents. The only time they didn’t was in their season-opening victory over Southern Illinois, but it still was close, as the Salukis only had possession for 1:04 more than the Hoosiers.The ability to keep its opponent’s offenses off the field has been critical in securing victories, because Indiana’s defense has been a liability. The Hoosiers rank 117th out of 127 in the nation in total defense due to surrendering nearly 500 yards per game.The more time Indiana’s defensive players have their helmets off and are on the sidelines, the better. In a sense, the Hoosiers play defense by keeping their offense on the turf.OSU’s defense is a superior unit to any the Hoosiers have played so far, but if Indiana can find a way to keep its offense — which ranks 18th in the country — on the field and control the clock, the probability of advancing to 5-0 for the first time since 1967 definitely improves.Blazing defenses Running back Jordan Howard’s dominance has been instrumental in the Hoosiers controlling the clock and their overall offensive prowess.The junior is in his first year with the program after spending his first two years playing for the UAB Blazers. He was granted a free transfer after UAB’s football program was shut down.Through four games, Howard has been the go-to weapon for Wilson’s squad.Howard leads the country in rushing yards as he has amassed 675 yards on 111 carries — an  average of 6.1 yards per carry — while finding the end zone four times.The success is not a case of beginner’s luck after transferring to a new school. In 2014 for UAB, the Gardendale, Alabama, native set a school rushing record with 1,587 yards and 13 scores. His 132.3 yards per game average was seventh best in the country last season.His proven ability at UAB plus the experienced Indiana offensive line — which is anchored by senior left tackle Jason Spriggs and redshirt junior right guard Dan Feeney, who combined have 66 starts between them — all adds up to the reason why defenses have had trouble slowing Howard down. The Buckeye run defense was exposed a little bit against Western Michigan as it gave up 169 yards, its highest rushing total allowed so far in 2015. If Howard and the offensive line can capitalize off the success WMU had, the Hoosiers might have a shot at topping OSU for the first time since 1988.Sorry secondaryAs mentioned above, the defense has been the weakest link so far for the undefeated Hoosiers, ranking 10th from last in total defense.However, that underwhelming team ranking mostly falls on the shoulders of the secondary, as the rushing defense is only allowing opponents to pick up 138.5 yards per game — which is only 17 more than OSU averages.Indiana ranks second to last in passing yards allowed, with 360 per contest. The origin of this woe comes from the unit’s youth.On the Hoosiers’ two-deep, every member of the secondary is either a freshman or sophomore in eligibility. Two true freshmen — safety Jonathan Crawford and cornerback Andre Brown Jr. — are listed as starters.Redshirt sophomore cornerback Rashard Fant played in all 12 games last year and has been decent at times this year, but he is surrounded by inexperienced teammates and it is showing.Fant can only guard one guy at a time, so the lack of game reps by the others in the defensive backfield are allowing teams to pick up yards through the air nearly at-will.OSU’s passing game has yet to find its full stride but it started to show improvements in last week’s win. That has to concern Wilson because of how his secondary is playing. He has to hope for redshirt junior Cardale Jones to make self-inflicted mistakes or it could be a long day for the Hoosier defense.Beyond the BuckeyesFollowing Saturday’s game, Indiana will continue with Big Ten play as it is scheduled face Penn State at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 10. Kickoff has not yet been announced. read more

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