Activists bid to put LGBT rights on commonwealth Agenda

Published: August 30, 2011

The CHOGM is being held in Perth, Australia, from October 28 to 30.

The call is being made by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the PTF, who has written to the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague MP, requesting that he lobby the CHOGM host government, Australia, to put LGBT issues on the agenda.

In his letter to the Foreign Secretary, Mr Tatchell states, “These are the issues we would like to see on the CHOGM agenda and that we believe all Commonwealth member states should agree to enact:

     Decriminalisation of homosexuality
     Laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
     The enforcement of legislation against threats and violence, to protect LGBT people from hate crimes
     Consultation and dialogue with LGBT organisations.”

He notes, “CHOGM has never even discussed – let alone declared its support for – LGBT equality and human rights. It is long overdue that CHOGM addressed this humanitarian issue, which it has neglected for far too long. We hope that this year’s CHOGM will end these decades of silence and inaction.

“I hope that LGBT and human rights organisations in many Commonwealth member states will lobby the Australian Foreign Minister and get their own governments to do likewise.”

Like the United Nations, the Commonwealth is a significant international forum. CHOGM’s support for the decriminalisation of homosexuality would be a symbolic and moral victory in the long global battle for LGBT human rights.

“It won’t be easy to get the issue on the CHOGM agenda and it will be even harder to get CHOGM to agree our equality demands. But we have to try. Even if we don’t succeed this year, hopefully we’ll lay the foundations for success at the next CHOGM,” said Mr Tatchell.

The Commonwealth comprises 54 countries, mostly former British colonies. They share an agreed commitment to equality and human rights. Yet more than 40 of these countries continue to uphold a total ban on homosexuality. In most instances, this criminalisation was imposed by Britain during the era of colonial occupation.

As Mr Tatchell notes in his letter to William Hague: “The penalties for homosexuality include 25 years jail in Trinidad and Tobago and 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia. Several Commonwealth countries stipulate life imprisonment: Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Guyana.

“These 40-plus Commonwealth member states account for more than half of the world’s countries that still criminalise same-sex relations.

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