Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has offered an assurance New Zealand supports a recommendation for Commonwealth nations to end to end the discrimination and criminalisation of gay people, in order to effectively fight HIV and AIDS.
New Zealand AIDS Foundation Vice Patron and former Australian judge Michael Kirby led the powerful stand against homophobia in the Commonwealth ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth in October.
The member of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) said persecution of gay people was to blame for HIV rates twice as high in Commonwealth nations as in the rest of the world.
A call from the EPG “to encourage the repeal of discriminatory laws that impede the effective response of Commonwealth countries to the HIV/AIDS epidemic”, was then included in the group’s recommendations which Commonwealth leaders considered when they met in Perth.
Murray McCully has now responded to Rainbow Wellington’s questions over why New Zealand apparently did not speak up when the EPG recommendation was raised. His Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd brought it up, and was reportedly backed up only by Canada, while Britain had made an earlier stand on the issue.
McCully says New Zealand fully supports the recommendation. He explains it was one of 106 recommendations from the EPG, and given the limited time available, detailed discussion of the report was not possible.
He says the motion has been referred to the Task Force of Foreign Ministers and “remains very much on the table,” and will be discussed at the annual meeting of all Commonwealth Foreign Ministers, which will be held in New York in September.
McCully says New Zealand will closely follow the consultation of this recommendation.
Sex between men is a criminal act in 39 of the 54 Commonwealth nations, and the penalties include 25 years jail in Trinidad and Tobago and 20 years, plus flogging, in Malaysia.
In Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Guyana the penalty is life imprisonment, while there have been, homophobic witch-hunts in Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Ghana.
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