Colombo, Sri Lanka 21st January 2016


EQUAL GROUND’s strategic plan since its inception in 2004 has been to educate and sensitise the general public and our own LGBTIQ community on the normalcy of sexual orientation and gender identity, using a Human Rights platform to press for changes not just with the people of Sri Lanka but also with the Government, the Judiciary, the Media and the Corporate Sector, to name a few.  Over the course of several months in 2015 & 2016, EQUAL GROUND sensitized members of staff of John Keells Holdings PLC, as well as the staff of Renuka City Hotel.  The ongoing program for Corporate Sensitising has reaped dividends.

EQUAL GROUND is proud to announce that John Keells Holdings PLC becomes the first Sri Lankan Company to accept and commit to non-discrimination in the work place for persons of different sexual orientations and gender identities.

EQUAL GROUND is committed to creating avenues in which Companies such as John Keells Holdings can successfully sensitise and educate their staff on the importance of accepting Diversity in the workplace.  As such, since October 2015, EQUAL GROUND commenced awareness sessions to sensitise staff of John Keells Holdings PLC on sexual orientation and gender identity.       The successful execution of these sensitising trainings on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning persons (LGBTIQ) lives and issues has led to change in this corporate organisation – a leader in the business sector dedicated to providing a safe and inclusive workplace for its employees.

“Keells has always been about equality and diversity in the workplace and we have always encouraged women, ethnic minorities and others to be a part of our Company.  Including Sexual Orientation and gender Identity is just a natural progression for us.  It’s the right thing to do,” said Ajit Gunerwardene, Deputy Chairman of John Keells Holdings when asked why he was so open to this Corporate Sensitizing project pioneered by EQUAL GROUND.

John Keells Holdings PLC has a long history of advancing social change: it has taken initiatives in empowering women towards the eradication of violence against women, prevention of child abuse and child labour, the prevention of HIV / AIDS through creating awareness, and embracing a diverse workforce without discriminating on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender including different sexual orientations and gender identities.

The trainings conducted by EQUAL GROUND explains the legal and social challenges people with different Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities face in Sri Lanka in the workplace. An estimated 10% of people worldwide are estimated to be LGBTIQ, which amounts to approximately 2.2m persons in Sri Lanka.

“We are certainly pleased and excited by John Keells Holdings PLC committment, in not only sensitising their workforce on LGBTIQ issues but also making it a Human Resources policy to encourage LGBTIQ persons to work at John Keells Holdings without fear or discrimination,” said Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Executive Director of EQUAL GROUND speaking on this groundbreaking decision by John Keells Holdings.  She further said: “We are committed to encouraging more and more businesses to do the same as John Keells Holdings PLC.  Embracing diversity and encouraging all persons to be their best and give of their best in the workplace only enhances Sri Lanka’s economic growth and will not have the shortcomings that many persons are so fond of pointing out, all be it erroneously.”


In 2009, Witeck, the US communications company and Harris Interactive, the market researcher, found the estimated spending power of the LGBT community to be £81bn in the UK and $712bn in the US.  By 2013 this figure in the US was over $800 Billion.

It also suggested that 78% of the LGBT community, their friends and relatives would switch brands to companies known to be LGBT-friendly.

The UN urges companies to come forward with safe, fair and accepting policies including LGBTIQ people. Reluctance to do so currently costs India US$32bn p.a. and Sri Lanka an estimate of US$128m p.a. To put this into perspective, Homophobia costs our country the 2014 equivalent of our aviation industry. Tackling homo- and transphobia is not only a social cause, but also makes Rupees and sense (Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited, (2015). Annual Report 2014. Katunayaka. Ministry of Finance and Planning, (2010). Annual Report Mihin Lanka 2008 Sri Jayawardenapura,  Sri Lankan Airlines, (2015) Annual Report 2013-2014 Colombo).