As the month of June passes by, an age-old topic that lies beneath our society’s general discussions rises to the surface. Yet, as always, it is eventually dismissed and sent back to the list of taboo topics that we Sri Lankans chose not to discuss. And what is this forbidden subject? LGBTQ+ and anything and everything related to it.
What is pride?
What pride means to a person is entirely individualistic. However, all these opinions can be assembled into a common theme of acceptance and liberation. Pride celebrates individualism, standing up to anyone who shames you and being proud of who you are, regardless of your beliefs. June was chosen as LGBTQ pride month to commemorate the LGBTQ+ community, and strengthen their fight for their rights and freedom.
The origin of pride
In June 1969, when homosexuality was still a crime in the United States, the police arrived at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York City to arrest anyone who was in drag clothing or as part of the gay community. Police raids were common in the past; they marginalized and inflicted pain and discomfort on those who were “different”. However, on that day at Stonewall Inn, for the first time in history, the community rallied together and fought back. Greenwich Village, as a whole, joined hands to resist police brutality and more importantly, to send a powerful message about their frustration with the status quo for LGBTQ individuals. This particular event went down in history as ‘the Stonewall Riots’ and is the historical significance behind Pride month.
The current status of LGBTQ rights in the world
Currently, the World Health Organization recognizes homosexuality and gender identities as “normal” and not a mental illness, as most of our society presumes. Moreover, gay marriage is legal in 29 countries, and each day more and more countries recognize LGBTQ individuals and are on the path to legalizing gay marriage. But on the other side of the spectrum, many countries refuse to acknowledge this subject at all, and in some, being homosexual is even punishable by death.
Status quo for LGBTQ folk in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, there are no laws that recognize or protect the LGBTQ community. Furthermore, this topic remains entirely controversial and is never discussed out in the open. Even when politicians attempt to bring it up, it is taken as a joke, and various slurs are thrown around to shun them.
The irony in this hostile attitude is that pre-colonial Srilanka had an open-minded society, where homosexuality and even concepts such as polyamory were recognized. Our nation succumbed to our current mindset in the act of being colonized.
It is important to address that being a person of the LGBTQ community is not a threat to any other community or anyone else’s beliefs. Pride is about celebrating these individuals within their community and making them feel valid in a society that constantly invalidates them. Even though the sacredness of marriage between a male and a female was used to shun those who were different, Pride does not take away the sanctity of marriage. Pride does not hurt anyone or their beliefs. Pride simply celebrates love in all shapes and forms.
Turning a new cultural leaf
Noticeably, the youth of Sri Lanka is far more progressive in terms of acceptance than the previous generations, and are more willing to understand the movement and stand up in the face of injustice. Along with globalization, our youth engage in discussions regarding these topics and have access to information that will help them sympathize and understand topics our society refuses to discuss. Furthermore, recently, we see various organizations such as Equal Ground that advocate for LGBTQ rights as well as Colombo Pride that gives the LGBT community and their allies to celebrate themselves and their love.
If you are part of the youth of our nation, combating these issues is in your hands. Our older generations fought for issues such as classism, racial issues, and female empowerment, therefore our generation must be more progressive and even more accepting. We must be the ones to spark up the discussion that will hopefully make the future safer for everyone.
What can you do as a member of the youth
Firstly, creating awareness and starting a discussion is vital in introducing progressive concepts. Educating those around us and letting them know that being a part of the LGBTQ community is neither a mental illness, nor a sin, nor is a characteristic to be ashamed of. Especially in instances such as in all-boys’ schools, the concept of masculinity is extremely toxic. Stand up for your peers if they are being bullied, because they are not “man” enough or if they like subjects that are typically considered unmasculine. Break down those barriers that have been forced among us to degrade people and make them feel worthless. Stop using terms belonging to the LGBTQ community as slurs and insults. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement such as letting your loved ones know that they are accepted, regardless of their gender, sexuality, beliefs, etc. and that these features are a part of them, but in no way make a difference in your friendship with them.
Due to the unsafe atmosphere in the status quo in Sri Lanka, to be open about one’s sexuality is risky and challenging. This environment leads to many closeted young people being scared and feels like they have no one to turn to. They are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and fear that their families will disown them the second they find out. They yearn for a home where they are loved. If you are not a part of the LGBTQ community, this may be a hard concept to grasp, but that does not justify turning a blind eye. These are your colleagues, your friends, your family, and they deserve your compassion, your protection, and most importantly, your unwavering acceptance.
by Sonal Randeny and Sayumi Jayawardene
During the last hundred years, atmospheric temperatures have been readily increasing to the point where we are now experiencing some of the most extreme temperatures on record. This is both caused by and cause for a self-sustaining feedback loop that inevitably worsens these conditions. It’s abundantly clear that by releasing heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere, as a result of the means we have employed to power our modern lives, we’re accelerating this morbid cycle and driving our planet further towards doom. Today, greenhouse gas levels are at the highest they have been in the last 800,000 years.
Although the abstract idea of global warming and the greenhouse effect is no longer a mere hypothesis but widely credited and scientifically proven, there is still an air of suspicion and disbelief among some. Not to mention the complicity and inaction shown by the government in many countries including Sri Lanka.
There are many other factors that affect the climate besides human activity. Volcanic eruptions, varying levels of solar radiation and solar wind, the position of the earth in relation to the sun, and certain weather patterns are a few natural occurrences that cause variations in atmospheric temperatures. However, it’s clear that these are only responsible for approximately two percent of the recent warning effect. By definition, this goes to show that human activity is responsible for the remaining 98%.
Since the dawn of the human race, heat-trapping gases have been naturally absorbed through natural means, providing stable temperatures in which civilizations can flourish. However, since the industrial revolution, when fossil fuels were introduced as ways to produce energy and a precursor of our post-modern lifestyle was created, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and atmospheric temperatures have been on the rise. In the 150 years since then, humans have increased the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere threefold. This is causing processes that would usually happen over thousands of years to take place in a matter of decades. These changes occur faster than most organisms can adapt to, and as a result will pose a multitude of challenges to all Earth’s inhabitants.
In addition, climate change also causes irreversible damage to the environment. The remaining ice sheets such as those in Greenland and Antarctica are beginning to melt. This sets off a chain reaction where the extra water could raise sea levels significantly in a short time. The Global Change Research Program projects that by 2050, sea levels will rise by 2.3 feet. To perpetuate this cycle, the greenhouse gases trapped in the glaciers and ice caps will be released into the atmosphere and further exacerbate the greenhouse effect. This leads far more extreme weather patterns.
Unfortunately, it seems that we’ve forgotten our roots. Especially as a part of a culture that’s historically and physiognomically attached to nature and our environment. However, it’s ironic that we, as a country, haven’t addressed this issue due to a plethora of reasons. As a small tropical island nation, we’re far more vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. We’re also susceptible to the socio-economic effects of climate change as our economy is heavily dependent on the fashion and garment industry as well as the tourism industry, two of the most environmentally destructive trades, of which, the latter is immensely more so.
However, all hope is not lost. Our planet’s afflictions may come in thousands but humans come in billions. We may doubt the impact that an individual can cause, but it is important to remember that your duty is all you can do and it is each person’s responsibility to contribute to the solutions.
By Himaya Perera and Asiri Ekanayake
Hazing, also known as ragging, is a common occurrence in state universities and is used to establish seniority within the student body. Initially, hazing was a way of eradicating the social hierarchies which exist beyond the boundaries of the university. Everybody got hazed therefore, everyone was equal. However, in status-quo, it has evolved into a display of power. Seniors will pressure freshmen into engaging in various acts, on the threat that their lives at university will be miserable if they refuse to oblige.
Hazing could include anything from being asked to sing in public to forced consumption of various substances and even inflicting physical and sexual harm on students. Once hazing gets out of hand and causes emotional and/or physical harm, many students are driven into committing acts of self-harm such as suicide or to leave the particular institute altogether. Around 20 students have committed suicide due to hazing and according to the University Grants Commission, out of the registered university students, 1989 students have dropped out due to ragging incidents that occurred in 2017 and 2018. Since the students who enter local universities are those who passed their Advanced Level examinations with flying colours and are the cream of the crop, every drop-out is a huge loss to our nation.
This topic was brought to light recently because of an incident that took place at Sri Jayawardenapura University. On March 5th, 21-year-old Pasindu Hirushan from Kamaragoda, Minuwangoda was descending a flight of stairs around 1.30 a.m. after a “bucket party” (an event celebrating the end of the ragging season) when a group of senior students had sent a tractor tire down the stairs. The tyre had hit Pasindu causing him to collapse on the ground and hit his head, causing severe damage. It is still unknown whether the seniors were under the influence of alcohol. As of now, Pasindu is paralyzed. According to medical professionals, even if he recovers, he will have many side effects including loss of memory.
The response on social media was fast and passionate. Among the many tweets, stories, and posts calling for justice, the police and the Sri Jayawardenapura University administration have launched separate investigations to inquire into the incident.
Pasindu is only one of the many victims who suffer permanent consequences of ragging. But given that this issue has existed for many decades, why aren’t effective preventive measures in place yet?
Under the Prohibition of Ragging and Other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act No. 20 of 1998, ragging is a punishable offense by law. Moreover, the UGC has set up a 24-hour hotline (011- 2123700), a website (https://eugc.ac.lk/rag/), an anti-ragging mobile app to report different forms of threat and harassment on campus grounds as well as a special office at the Commission that is open on all days from 8.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., excluding government holidays.
Despite the governments’ and universities’ best efforts, hazing still prevails, often carried out in remote locations around campus or even in private residences that are rented specifically for hazing such as in the incident at the University of Peradeniya in 2017. Ragging cannot be conquered by merely establishing a few laws; there is a dangerous age-old herd mentality that needs to be changed to make a significant difference. In order to do so, the government and higher authorities cannot take action alone. The youth must take a stand on enforcing morals within themselves to protect their peers from being succumbed to such injustice.
Written by Nisal Abeyakoon
In late December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause was reported by health authorities in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China which was later discovered by health authorities to be a newly emerged virus widely known as the ‘Coronavirus’ (COVID-19) caused by SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2).
The initial cases mostly had links to the Huanan Seafood Market and therefore is believed to have a zoonotic origin possibly in bats of the ‘Rhinolophus genus’. The earliest reported symptoms occurred on 1 December 2019. Out of the 1st cluster of reported cases, two-thirds were found to have a link with the wet market.
WHO response measures
On 30 January 2020, the WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the sixth PHEIC since the measure was first invoked during the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
On 5 February, the WHO appealed to the global community for a $675 million contribution to fund strategic preparedness in low-income countries.
On 11 February, the WHO in a press conference established COVID-19 as the name of the disease. In a further statement on the same day, Dr.Tedros Ghebreyesus (WHO–Director-General) stated that he had briefed with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who agreed to provide the “power of the entire UN system in the response.” A UN Crisis Management Team was activated as a result, allowing co-ordination of the entire United Nations response, which the WHO states will allow them to “focus on the health response while the other agencies can bring their expertise to bear on the wider social, economic and developmental implications of the outbreak”.
On 11 March the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak an official pandemic.
Sri Lankan Airlines ‘mercy flight’ crew brings back Wuhan students to Sri Lanka.
Amid all the chaos the virus was inflicting around the world this brave 16 member crew who risked their lives by going into the very epicenter of the virus rescued 33 students and showed us all how truly proud it is to be Sri Lankan.
COVID-19 reaches Sri Lanka
The first Sri Lankan who was tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11th, 2020 was a 52-year-old tour guide (now recovered). Within 1 week close to 85 individuals were tested positive in the districts of Colombo, Gampaha, Puttalam & Rathnapura and the country was put into immediate lockdown to stop the virus from spreading further.
Current status around the world
There have been more than 2 Million confirmed cases reported worldwide in which over 500,000 have been recovered & more than 150,000 deaths have been reported worldwide
People may be sick between 1–14 days before developing symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness & dry cough. Older people & people with other medical conditions are more vulnerable to this disease.
Methods of preventing contraction
Wash your hands often with soap & water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place
Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
Avoid touching your eyes, nose & mouth
Self-isolate yourself from other people
Wear a face mask when you go into the public
Even though this epidemic has turned into a serious issue around the world it will be wrong to deny the fact that the media has used this as an opportunity to exaggerate the true depth of the virus and has inflicted fear and confusion among the public
As expected fingers were pointed towards China which is where the initial outbreak occurred, some world leaders even went to the extreme of calling it the ‘Chinese virus’ It was quite disappointing to see that some individuals were most concerned about pointing fingers and buying large stocks of supply than helping in however they can
What we can do as the youth
This global pandemic caused economies to collapse, people lost their jobs and loved ones.
Covid-19 caused fear and unrest among the public which drove the public into buying large stocks of supplies with no moral obligation towards other citizens who also require supplies which then caused fights & riots
I believe that we as the youth have a lot of things to learn about from this incident like how important personal hygiene is, how racism does not stop pandemics and buying large stocks of supplies a selfish act of cowardice.
check out the post below for a message from the SLMUN 2020 ExCo regarding COVID-19
By Matthew Milhuisen and Vishmika Suarez
What is SLMUN
Sri Lanka Model United Nations or SLMUN is the primary simulation of the United Nations conference and is the pioneer of any MUN related program in the country. Created to foster diplomacy, critical thinking and debating skills within the youth of Sri Lanka, SLMUN is one of Asia’s largest student run model United Nations with over 100 participating schools and 800+ delegates participating yearly for the annual conference.
At SLMUN, students step into the shoes of ambassadors of countries that are members of the UN; from Argentina to Zimbabwe. They debate on current issues on the organization’s vast mandate. They prepare draft resolutions, plot strategy, negotiate with supporters and adversaries, resolve conflicts and navigate the UN’s rules of procedure – all in the interest of resolving problems that affect the world.
Throughout the years SLMUN has acted on the belief that a more capable and educated younger generation is the basis for a brighter future; thus, our core objective is to invest time and effort in our country’s youth to make an impact on the future.
History of SLMUN
The very first simulations were called “International Assembly” held at Oxford University which later evolved to the first MUN that was held at Swarthmore College Pennsylvania in 1947, and so on over the decades it has grown and spread to the east as well.
The Sri Lanka Model United Nations as we know today, was initiated in 2008 by Mr. Rohan Ellawala and the Model United Nations Club of Ananda College. Ever since then, a group of energetic teenagers known as the Executive Committee or EXCO take it upon themselves every year to continue the legacy of SLMUN with the aims of taking the UN to every corner of Sri Lanka.
It is the collective efforts of our Charge De Affairs, Mr. Ellawala and the EXCO that makes the conference proceedings happen smoothly each year.
What we do at SLMUN
SLMUN encourages young voices to rise and make a difference, irrelevant of their background and age by conducting workshops not only in Colombo but in Galle, Kandy, Gampaha, Kiribathgoda and Negombo as well. These measures are taken to cultivate our next generation of thinkers to be more knowledgeable of global issues.
In 2012 SLMUN broke new ground when 1,100 students from Sri Lanka Nepal, India, Malaysia and Maldives came together to be a part of conference making that a historic year for SLMUN.
Throughout the past years SLMUN conference has united the youth around the island and South Asia to tackle global issues in a diplomatic perspective.
Understanding the pivotal role our youth play in the future of this world, our aim is to train them to think out-of-the-box, defeat prejudice and engage together in an effort to formulate solutions to compete with the pressing global issues to create a safer world.
Through connecting the youth today, SLMUN hopes to create a better tomorrow.
Why join SLMUN
2020 will mark 13 years of SLMUN providing a platform for passionate individuals to tackle various global issues such as poverty, climate change, inequality and humanitarian crises that encompass the globe, giving them an opportunity to provide their insight regarding these issues while providing an equal chance to build and nurture fundamental skills such as leadership, analytical skills, public relations, complex problem solving and public speaking.
Furthermore, SLMUN promotes a process of training students to be fair solution-based leaders instead of theoretical debaters. For instance, in 2018 SLMUN took upon itself to aid the UNICEF in coming up with creative ideas to support the End Violence Campaign. More than 600 delegates committed to end any form of violence against children and to keep finding practical actions to solve this issue.
Here at SLMUN we like to instill one thing in the hearts of every student who joins us – Dream big. Dream big for our motherland, Dream big for our world.