Prostitution is not illegal in Sri Lanka, however, related activities such as soliciting, procuring, and brothels are outlawed. It is also illegal to traffic persons for prostitution, especially minors. Prostitution is not as widespread in Sri Lanka as in some neighbouring countries. It is estimated that there are 40,000 prostitutes (known as "Ganikawa") in the country, and nearly half of them operate in Colombo.
Child Sex tourism and human trafficking are problems in Sri Lanka.
There is a reluctance for sex-workers to use condoms as these can be used as evidence of prostitution if they are arrested. UNAIDS are running a programme to promote safe sex to the prostitutes.
Much of Sri Lanka's law surrounding prostitution dates back to the days of British rule.
The Vagrants Ordinance was introduced in 1842. Two sections are relevant to prostitution:
In 1889 the Brothels Ordinance was introduced. It provides punishment for any person who:
Section 360A of the Penal Code defines and prohibits procuring, Section 360B Deals with the sexual exploitation of children and Section 360C deals with human trafficking. In addition Section 365A (grave sexual offences), strengthens the legislation on sex with children and trafficking. (all added 1995).
See also: Human trafficking in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is primarily a source, destination, and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Some Sri Lankan women are subjected to forced prostitution in Cyprus, Maldives, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and elsewhere. Within the country, women and children are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels. Boys are more likely than girls to be exploited in commercial sex in coastal areas for child sex tourism. In recent years, a small number of women from other Asian and Central Asian countries have been subjected to forced prostitution in Sri Lanka. Police reportedly accept bribes to permit brothels to operate, some of which exploit trafficking victims. Sub-agents collude with officials to procure fake or falsified travel documents to facilitate travel of Sri Lankans abroad.
The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Sri Lanka as a 'Tier 2' country.