Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake acquitting a woman arrested in a brothel on charges of prostitution said it was not considered an offence in Sri Lanka for a woman to earn a living through prostitution but however it was an offence to operate a brothel.
Citing two major superior court judgments (Saibo vs Chellam and Coore vs James Appu), he said, “prostitution is not an offence per se under our law” and that the Vagrants Ordinance and the Brothel Ordinance are the laws that govern prostitution in Sri Lanka.
The Magistrate said, the Vagrants Ordinance only deals with a prostitute when she is behaving in a riotous or disorderly manner in any public street or highway (Sections 2 and 9) while the Brothel Ordinance provides punishment against any person who keeps or manages or acts or assists in the management of a brothel (Section 2).
He said there were no prevailing laws in Sri Lanka since colonial times against a woman who independently engaged in prostitution as a means of earning a living and acquitted the woman who was arrested in the brothel because her act was not recognized as an offence under the Vagrants Ordinance and the Brothel Ordinance.
Considering the possibility that such a woman could be charged for aiding and abetting the management in operating the brothel, the Magistrate said, “a woman, who is kept in a brothel for purpose of consorting with men cannot be charged for assisting in the management of the brothel (Abeykoon vs Kulatunga)” (Shehan Chamika Silva)