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Live and Let Love in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, LGBTQI+ organisation EQUAL GROUND carefully strategised its ‘LIVE WITH LOVE’ campaign

EQUAL GROUND (EG) is the oldest organisation in Sri Lanka advocating for the economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights of the LGBTIQ community, together with its heterosexual allies. Since its inception in 2004, EG has been working to achieve equality for different SOGIE and rights for the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka.

The work of EG is island-wide and is conducted in all three local languages – English, Sinhala, and Tamil – and thus, the organisation is able to reach individuals and communities in every part of Sri Lanka.

The overarching goal of EG is to decriminalise same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults in Sri Lanka. While working towards this goal, EG strives to create a safe space for all LGBTIQ individuals and to provide opportunities for self-help including mental wellbeing, economic, social, and political empowerment, access to health, education, housing, and legal protection for the LGBTIQ community.

From its inception, EQUAL GROUND’s vision has always been that policy change can only be achieved if there is more acceptance and tolerance for LGBTIQ persons from the public in Sri Lanka. To this end, EG has been conducting education and sensitisation workshops for the general public in nearly every district of the country on issues faced by the LGBTIQ community as well as diverse SOGIE. In addition, EG formed the Family & Friends of LGBTIQ (FFLGBTIQ) Network to build an environment for family and friends of the LGBTIQ community to discuss relevant issues and to support each other, while also building a network of strong allies that will contribute towards furthering the LGBTIQ rights movement.

The “Live with Love” campaign therefore firmly stands on the shoulders of 20 years of local engagement and countless campaigns and outreach activities not just in the main cities but all across the country.

Objective of the Social Awareness Campaign

Sri Lankan society is structured on strict gender roles and responsibilities, where anything different to heteronormative and binary gender standards is considered abnormal, deviant, and deserving of punishment/discrimination. Therefore, social stigmas are attached to homosexuality and non-binary genders. This stigma is heavily institutionalised resulting in the discrimination and marginalisation of members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning (LGBTIQ) community and those perceived as members of the LGBTIQ community.

Due to the lack of understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation and misinterpreted religious/cultural doctrine, LGBTIQ persons are often forced into heterosexual marriages, subject to “curative” rape, or face violence within the confines of their homes and in public. Individuals who are thus mistreated are denied access to justice and medical attention because they fear the repercussions of their ‘different’ Sexual Orientations and/or Gender Identities/Expressions (SOGIE) becoming public knowledge and because the instances of further abuse at the hands of the authorities is a probable threat.

In order to change these problems and push for policy-level change, EG is aware of the importance of creating an environment where LGBTIQ people are accepted by society. Therefore, the main objective of the campaign is to create more acceptance and support of diverse SOGIE and LGBTIQ identities among Sri Lankan society – specifically the target group – and reduce discrimination and marginalisation of the LGBTIQ community.

The campaign brief:


Those who perceive there is a significant gap between them and the LGBTIQ community socially, biologically, culturally (‘Me’ and ‘Them’ not ‘We)


That LGBT community should be accepted and supported since;

  • All of us are Sri Lankans living in the same country sharing the same space
  • We as Sri Lankans deeply value togetherness and being respectful towards each other. 
  • We are all human beings regardless of our sexual orientation and gender identity 


Reduce the perceived gap between the LGBTIQ community and the general public so that we can integrate the LGBT community into the larger society by means of decriminalising. 



The Approach to Campaign Strategy

The campaign was approached as a marketing campaign, driven by storytelling.

As such, the first element of building the campaign strategy was to conduct a research study (outsourced to a market research company in Sri Lanka) “to develop a communication strategy that changes the stigma attached to LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka, by exploring and identifying common values that will help to accept the LGBTIQ community as a part of the larger Sri Lankan community.” As such, the company conducted an in-depth island-wide research study, speaking to both LGBTIQ+ persons and non-LGBTIQ persons on their perceptions, attitudes, experiences, values, motivations, and challenges. The research team was sensitised on LGBTIQ+ issues and terminologies as they had no prior experience working on LGBTIQ rights. They key insights and the information from the research was used to identify the target audience (discussed in the next section), the key values that could act as the foundation for the campaign, the tensions arising from these values. This was done at a workshop facilitated by the researchers, which included the participation of EQUAL GROUND staff, the content creators, and the social media experts.

For instance, some of the key values identified through the research were: Amiability – friendly & welcoming; Courteousness – polite and respectful; Generosity – support for the betterment of others; and Family-oriented. One of the examples of a tension that arose from the Family-oriented Value was articulated as: “I believe (as a parent), that a LGBTIQ child/ person will never be happy in life and be accepted by society, and their life will be miserable. At the same time, I’m certain that they don’t have enough experience to make life decisions for themselves. Therefore, I cannot allow them to live their life as a LGBTIQ person.”

Approach to research and crafting the campaign strategy

Based on these insights, six key messages to reach the target audience were elaborated. The messages were then presented to focus groups to identify which ones would work and which ones would not work. Based on these discussions and reactions from the focus group participants, there were two main messages selected. The campaign strategy was built with a focus on these two key messages. Together with the content creators and the social media experts, EQUAL GROUND explored a host of different content options before creating the content plan and the dissemination strategy. As demonstrated above, each step of the campaign strategy was informed by the research.

The approach to the actual content was “every day, real-life stories from the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka that need to be told.” Interviews during the pre-campaign research with LGBTIQ persons as well as interviews done outside of the research, existing research into the lives of LGBTIQ persons in Sri Lanka, media reports, and anecdotal evidence was used as the basis to create the content. Importantly, all identifying details were removed and the stories were either combined or generalised (by removing specific details) to protect the identity of individuals. In other words, the content were fictionalised stories inspired by real-life accounts, rather than being testimonial accounts.


Target Audience

As per the campaign objectives, EQUAL GROUND wanted to reach non-LGBTIQ persons. The research identified different sects of society based on their level of acceptance towards the LGBTIQ+ community. For the purposes of this campaign, those who are completely unaccepting, intolerant, and maliciously homo/trans/queerphobic were left out of consideration. The others were characterised into three broad and distinct groups: SYMPATHETIC, ACKNOWLDGING (characterised by reception, polite acceptance, and acknowledgement of LGBTIQ persons), and EMBRACING (characterised by equality and respect for the LGBTIQ community).

Grouping based on the degrees of acceptance  


The selected target group for this campaign was those in the SYMPATHETIC layer. Those in this group exhibit current perceptions and attitudes pertaining to LGBTIQ community that are largely entrenched in the area of sympathy (“we feel sorry for them”). This group, while not being outright homophobic, are also not outright supportive. They have suspicions and misconceptions about the LGBTIQ+ community, but most importantly, they are willing to listen and learn. This group is known as the ‘moveable middle.’ The goal was to move the Sympathetic group to accept LGBTIQ persons by building empathy for the LGBTIQ community.

The age group was kept wide: 25 years – 65 years old.

Among this wide group, there were two main subcategories – 1. young, educated professionals and 2. middle-aged and older persons who might be parents/guardians.

Other important characteristics: Middle-class and lower-middle class; somewhat traditional and conservative, religious


Key Messages

As mentioned above, based on the insights from the research, workshop, and focus group discussions, two key messages were selected for the campaign, based on the relevance, feasibility, and the appeal of the messages tested. The messages highlighted the importance of accepting the LGBTIQ+ community to create stronger and more tight-knit families and to develop economically and socially as a country.

  1. FAMILY 

This prompts the Target Audience to put themselves in the shoes of LGBTIQ community members- creates deeper empathy with the issues LGBTIQ community faces due to the social stigma. As a result, they realise the importance of destigmatising LGBTIQ in order to create a better environment for their loved ones. Acceptance is driven through love and caring.



This serves as an eye opener to realise the bigger social and economic impact the LGBTIQ community is making – hence the overall positive impact on the society to destigmatise LGBTIQ identities. It reminds the Target Audience that LGBTIQ persons make significant contributions to the economy and society at large, just like anyone else – and leaving them out could have negative impacts on these important aspects of the country’s development.

Types of Content

As mentioned before, the content creation took a story-telling approach. The impact and the creativity, as well as the emotional hooks for the audience were given special consideration when putting together the content plan.

  • Theme song and music video
  • 2D animation videos
  • Short films based on real stories (2 – 7 minutes)
  • Informative graphic posts and digital illustrations
  • Statements supporting the LGBTIQ community from influential personalities and allies



Considering the socio-political climate of Sri Lanka at the time, the campaign was decided to be fully digital, and the content was mainly be disseminated through SOCIAL MEDIA. New accounts were opened for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. The content from these pages were cross-shared on EG main social media accounts.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/livewithlove.sl

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livewithlove.sl/?hl=en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/livewithlove_sl

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTWuxx5nIGmjw15Mu_DPGRg?app=desktop

“Boosting posts has always brought a lot of engagement to our pages. Especially when considering comments and likes. For instance we not only get a lot of supportive comments but also some hate comments and what has always interested me is the way some individuals stand up for the community in the comment sections and fight back to learn and educate themselves before spreading hate.”

Niumi Kulasekara

Social Media Manager  – EQUAL GROUND, Sri Lanka


As the campaign work started in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a strong negative influence on the work carried out. Due to travel restrictions and limitations on face-to-face communications, the research process was hampered and had to be delayed. The focus group discussions were done fully online. It also affected the content creation stage as filming could not take place during times of lockdowns and curfew.

Additionally, the campaign was hampered by the severe economic and political crisis in Sri Lanka during 2022. Due to these developments, the launch of the campaign had to be delayed and the EQUAL GROUND team had to re-strategise the best approach for the launch.

Another significant challenge was around the lack of well-known terminology in the local languages (Sinhala and Tamil) to describe LGBTIQ identities and issues surrounding diverse SOGIESC. This proved to be a formidable hurdle as language was one of the key components of the Social Awareness Campaign.


Evaluating the Success of the Campaign

The success of the Social Awareness Campaign was measured mainly through social media metrics such as the number of followers/likes/views on the pages, engagement with the content (likes, comments), and direct responses to the campaign.

Monthly reports compare organic vs paid content outputs and analyses the content of the top performing items, seeking to identify the drivers of engagement via A-B message testing of messages but also of layout and colors. The outputs are analysed also by gender and geographic location, so that outreach strategies can be fine-tuned to a high level of precision.


                            ORGANIC REACH                                                                                     PAID REACH




What the Sogicampaigns team takes away:

Careful audience analysis is indispensable in order to create effective messages. A specialised company can do this best, as with this campaign, but it can also be done in-house with a bit of training. Some analysis is better than none.

Two message frames, in this case Family and Economic contribution, is a good number for a campaign. If there are too many it’ll blur your communication and weaken your strategy.

When the context does not allow for people to be identified, stories can be fictionalised, i.e. they can be performed by actors.