• Tuesday, May 21, 2019
  • Last Update : 09:30 pm

Sri Lanka arrests novelist over gay plot line about Buddhists

  • Published at 06:34 pm April 3rd, 2019
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Shakthika Sathkumara, 33, was arrested in the north-central town of Polgahawela on Monday and remanded in custody for nine days after monks complained about his writing

A Sri Lankan novelist has been arrested for writing about homosexuality in the Buddhist clergy and charged with violating international human rights law, officials said Tuesday, outraging free speech advocates.

Shakthika Sathkumara, 33, was arrested in the north-central town of Polgahawela on Monday and remanded in custody for nine days after monks complained about his writing.

The short story contained indirect references to homosexuality among the clergy, who hold considerable sway in the Buddhist-majority nation of 21 million.

The story was published on Sathkumara's Facebook page and in local Sinhalese language publications. 

"A group of monks complained that the reference to homosexual activities among the clergy insulted Buddhism," a police spokesman said.

Buddhist monks are expected to be celibate. Homosexuality is also outlawed in Sri Lanka under an 1883 colonial-era law, but it is rarely enforced.

The police spokesman said the monks who complained refused to settle the matter out of court and insisted on Sathkumara being prosecuted.

He was taken before a local magistrate who charged him with inciting "religious hatred" under the United Nation's international human rights treaty, to which Sri Lanka is a signatory.

Local activists decried what they called abuse of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to clamp down on free speech.

"The police have abused their powers and carried out an arbitrary arrest," the Free Media Movement, a local watchdog, said in a statement.

"We condemn this action of the police."