Sept 19, Colombo: In a landmark meeting held today, Minister of Labor and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara met with representatives of the transgender community in Sri Lanka to discuss urgent concerns related to workplace violence, harassment, and discrimination faced by transgender workers in Sri Lanka.
Recognizing the need for targeted support, the transgender community has formed a trade union in collaboration with NGOs committed to promoting the welfare of transgender individuals. Representatives sought approval from Minister Nanayakkara to formalize the trade union under the regulatory purview of the Ministry of Labor and Foreign Employment.
While no exact figures are available, approximately 3.5% of the population is estimated to identify as LGBQT. With the assistance of 28 organizations working for the rights of the LGBQT community, the goal is to create an effective mechanism to protect the rights of transgender employees, especially against harassment and violence in the workplace.
Boomi Harendran, a community representative, raised concerns over difficulties faced by transgender individuals in claiming Employee Provident Fund (EPF) benefits. She also emphasized the need for broader education on gender and sexuality to foster a more inclusive society.
Minister Nanayakkara acknowledged the concerns and affirmed that the ongoing labor law reforms are considering the unique challenges faced by the transgender community.
The minister revealed that Sri Lanka is benchmarking international standards, including the provisions of the ILO’s C190 and C180 conventions, which focus on eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work.
In addition, the Ministry is working on the Sector Human Council program under the vital result area called ‘Dignity of Labour,’ aimed at safeguarding the rights and dignity of all workers, including those from the LGBQT community.
Minister Nanayakkara assured the representatives that the current government is progressively oriented and possesses the political will to enact necessary policy changes to protect the rights of the LGBQT community. In a noteworthy statement, he even suggested that members of the LGBQT community could one day represent their community in the Sri Lankan Parliament.
This meeting marks a significant milestone in the fight for equal rights and fair treatment of the transgender community in Sri Lanka, paving the way for greater inclusion and representation in all spheres of life.