The Peter Tatchell Foundation, a campaign group for human rights, presented proposals to the Commonwealth Secretariat to put LGBT+ equality on the agenda of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018
The Peter Tatchell Foundation, a campaign group for human rights, presented proposals to the Commonwealth Secretariat to put LGBT+ equality on the agenda of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell submitted the proposals on December 6, 2017 to challenge the current criminalisation of same-sex relations in 36 of the 52 Commonwealth member nations, and to provide legal protection from hate crime and discrimination for the estimated 100-200 million LGBT+ citizens living in the Commonwealth.
LGBT+ issues and concerns have never been discussed by CHOGM leaders in the 60 years since the sessions have been run.
Tatchell delivered a four-point strategy for advancing LGBT+ rights in the Commonwealth, developed from suggestions by LGBT+ activists from across the Commonwealth.
The first point is to provide a platform to pro-LGBT+ advocates from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific, as criticism and condemnation of anti-gay countries, particularly from western nations like Britain, Australia and Canada, would be counter-productive.
The second is to facilitate a CHOGM event where pro- LGBT+ Commonwealth leaders and church people, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President of Botswana Festus Mogae, address heads of government on why LGBT+ rights should be supported as human rights.
Third, the Commonwealth Secretariat or a sympathetic non-western state should host a meeting with Commonwealth LGBT representatives and Commonwealth heads of government, where the sharing of personal stories of discrimination and violence will have the greatest impact.
And lastly, Commonwealth leaders could be invited to sign a statement committing to ending the persecution of LGBT+ citizens and agreeing to work towards a set of goals inspired by the Commonwealth Charter human rights principles.
These goals are to decriminalise same-sex relations, prohibit discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity, enforce laws against LGBT-related threats, violence and hate crimes, and open a dialogue with LGBT+ organisations.
Commonwealth countries account for 50% of the 72 nations worldwide that criminalise same-sex relations, mostly under laws imposed by British colonial power.
Life imprisonment is stipulated in 7 Commonwealth member states and homosexuality is punishable by death in parts of Pakistan and Nigeria, whilst hate crimes against LGBT+ people remain widespread and unchecked in most Commonwealth countries.
Tatchell said: “I have personally tried to get [LGBT+ issues] on the agenda at CHOGM for 30 years and been rebuffed every time.
“This discussion must be in the main summit and not side-lined to the NGO Commonwealth People’s Forum, as has happened in the past.
“Securing unanimity and consensus on this statement is unlikely to be possible but… even if only twenty countries signed that would be a positive move forward from zero.
“This strategic approach is designed to defuse opposition and empower support for LGBT+ equality and non-discrimination in ways that are likely to win over the maximum possible number of Commonwealth nations.
“The vast majority of LGBT+ people living in the Commonwealth have no legal protection against discrimination in employment, housing and the provision of good and services.
“This makes a mockery of Commonwealth values and the human rights principles of the Commonwealth Charter.”
Read More: Lewis Brooks at the Royal Commonwealth Society looks at the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in the Commonwealth and discusses progress in building a more modern, inclusive Commonwealth approach to the issue