Sri Lanka to build park for romantic young lovers

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo

  • Published
Kissing couple
Image caption,
If you must do it, say the authorities, do it in the park

The Sri Lankan government says it will construct a park for romantic young couples who want freedom to be together without being victimised by police.

Earlier this year hundreds of couples in two towns were arrested for associating with each other in public.

The government expressed some embarrassment about the arrests.

Sri Lanka is a conservative country where public displays of affection have traditionally been frowned upon. There have recently been a series of arrests.

Over-zealous police

The aim of this scheme is simple - to let young people show their feelings for each other.

That is according to the chairman of the National Youth Services Council, Lalith Piyum Perera.

He told the BBC that for several years there had been plans for what he called a youth park or even a "lovers' park".

But the plans gained momentum after police arrested hundreds of young couples for being out together, or possibly cuddling or kissing, in the towns of Kurunegala and Matara.

Mr Perera said that among those picked on by the over-zealous police were young engaged couples, even married ones.

Image caption,
Most Sri Lankans have a conservative approach to public displays of affection

He said that the youth affairs minister had felt partially responsible for this as the authorities had not provided areas where lovers could comfortably associate.

The new park, opening next year, will be on the banks of a river near parliament.

Children will not be admitted - but other than that, there will be no strict age limits, although it will be targeted at young people.

Musicians and other artistes will also perform there.

The youth affairs official said there was a clash in social mores which was largely a generational one, not connected with politics or ethnicity.

"Generally Sri Lankan youths are modernised," he said.

There are plans for more such parks in future although some people will perhaps worry that they will become a target for voyeurs.

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