The Sri Lankan government has announced its intention to decriminalize homosexuality. But there is stiff opposition to the move. The grounds for the opposition are several, including its possible impact on child rights.

Petitions have been submitted in the Supreme Court arguing that the private member’s bill to amend the Penal Code to decriminalize homosexuality could lead to the sexual exploitation of children by homosexuals. However, research in the West has found no definite correlation between homosexuality and child abuse and that the connection is largely prejudice.

Child Sexual Abuse 

For sure child abuse, including sexual abuse, is crying for attention in Sri Lanka. According to The Morning the media division of “Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere (PEaCE)” found 45 child abuse incidents reported in the media in January 2023. Out of these, 15 were of sexual abuse. In 2022, child sexual abuse had accounted for 31% of the reported cases.

According to UNICEF Sri Lanka, the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) data show that over 12,000 cases of child abuse were reported in 2015. These included 735 cases of sexual harassment and 433 cases of rape. A report by the Leader of the Opposition‘s Commission on the “Prevention of Violence against Women and the Girl Child”  stated that out of a total of 2,150 instances of rape or incest that were perpetrated in 2012, 89% were violations against children below the age of 16.

However, a point to note is that it is not said that the perpetrators were homosexuals. There is no data from Sri Lanka to show how many of the abusers of kids were typically homosexuals.

Contra View

In opposition to this, a large number of human rights activists and civil society members have submitted petitions to say that there are sufficient provisions in the existing Penal Code to protect children from abuse and these are not going to be amended or repealed.

The following are the protective provisions: a) 286A “Obscene Publication exhibition relating children”; b) 288A “Hiring or employing children to act as procurers”; c) 288B “Hiring or employing children to traffic in restricted articles”; d) 360B “Sexual Exploitation of Children”; e) 360E “Soliciting of a child”; f) 363 “Rape”; and g) 365B “Grave Sexual Abuse”; f) 365B includes any form of touch, including touch with hands, of any part of the victim’s body; oral rape; anal rape, etc.

These provisions cover all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation of children irrespective of gender or sexual orientation. Therefore, the allegation that decriminalization of LGBT people will expose children to abuse with no legal recourse is “malicious, unfounded and a lie”, the petitioners say. “It recycles the unfounded myth that LGBT people are child predators, despite statistics showing that the overwhelming majority of child sexual abuse is committed by heterosexual men,” they add.

A Global Issue    

As in Sri Lanka, the issue has been divisive globally. Writing in Baptist Press in 2020, Art Toalston quotes Judith Reisman, President of the Institute for Media Education in suburban Louisville USA, and author of  “Crafting Gay Children”, to substantiate his position that homosexuals tend to be pedophiles.

Reisman refers to a 1991 population study by the U.S. Department of Commerce to show this. The study showed that 8 million girls were abused by age 18 by heterosexual men, a ratio of 1 victim to 11 adult men. But 6-8 million boys were abused by age 18 by 1-2 million adult homosexuals, a ratio of 3-5 victims for every gay adult.

Reisman quotes another study which found that 150 boys were abused by one male homosexual offender, compared to 19.8 girls by heterosexual offenders.

She further says: “We looked at a leading gay travel guide. 47% of the 139 nations it talked about, identified places to find boys. The average heterosexual travel guide was not concerned with finding children.”

In a study published in 1987 in the “Journal of Interpersonal Violence” psychologist Gene Able said homosexuals sexually molested young boys with an incidence five times greater than the molestation of girls. In “The Gay Report”  of 1979, authored by Karla Jay and Allen Young, found that 73% of those surveyed had had sexual relations with males 16 to 19 or younger.

According to the paper entitled: “Homosexual Molestation of Children/Sexual Interaction of Teacher and Pupil” in the Journal of Psychological Reports Volume: 57 Issue: 3 Dated 1985, by P Cameron,    teachers who practiced homosexual acts were between 90 to 100 times more apt to involve themselves sexually with pupils than teachers who confined themselves to heterosexual acts.

In 1977, Anita Bryant successfully campaigned to repeal a Dade County (Florida) ordinance prohibiting anti-gay discrimination. She had named her organization “Save Our Children,” and had warned that “a particularly deviant-minded [gay] teacher could sexually molest children”.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) excludes gay scouts and scoutmasters because of such antipathy. The Vatican’s early response to the 2002 revelations of widespread Church cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests was to declare that gay men should not be ordained.

A 1961 document entitled “Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders” stated that homosexual men should not be ordained. In 2005, the Church clarified that men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” cannot be ordained

Fate of Marginalized Groups

However, these findings were trashed by New York’s Glenda Testone, northern regional media manager for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

“Heterosexual men were responsible for 74% of assaults on male victims and 77% of assaults on female victims, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics study (of July 1994),” she said.

Greater Accommodation Now

The website, which reviewed a number of research works on the subject, reported that the number of Americans who believe in the theory that gay people are child molesters has declined substantially.

In a 1970 national survey, more than 70% of respondents agreed with the assertion that: “Homosexuals are dangerous as teachers or youth leaders because they try to get sexually involved with children” or that “Homosexuals try to play sexually with children if they cannot get an adult partner.” By contrast, in a 1999 national poll, the belief that most gay men are likely to molest or abuse children was endorsed by only 19% of heterosexual men and 10% of heterosexual women.

Consistent with these findings, Gallup polls have found that an increasing number of Americans would allow gay people to be elementary school teachers. The proportion was 54% in 2005, compared to 27% in 1977.

An expert panel of researchers convened by the National Academy of Sciences noted in 1993: “The distinction between homosexual and heterosexual child molesters relies on the premise that male molesters of male victims are homosexual in orientation. However, most molesters of boys do not report sexual interest in adult men.”

That is, male child molesters, may not necessarily be gay. They could well be heterosexual. Heterosexuals may take to child molesting under some conditions, such as stress. Studies have also shown that male-child molesting men may be heterosexual with a deep inability to have sexual relations with an adult man or woman. They may take to male child molesting to vent their frustration.

The argument put forward by Western researchers is that homosexuality is not necessarily linked to child abuse as alleged by the traditionalist, conservative lobby and that the molester could well be a heterosexual. Therefore, the issue to be addressed is paedophilia, rather than homosexuality.


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