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Commonwealth: Put LGBTI equality on CHOGM 2018 agenda

LGBTI issues ignored by Commonwealth leaders for six decades

Call for an equality & diversity theme, including LGBTI rights

 

London, UK – 21 March 2016

A campaign has been launched to urge the organisers of the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled to be held in the UK in 2018, to adopt the theme: “A diverse and equal Commonwealth,” to include LGBTI human rights on the main CHOGM agenda and to invite openly LGBTI people from the Commonwealth to address the CHOGM leaders.

Please sign the petition here: http://tinyurl.com/jydgn5w

TEXT OF THE PETITION

“The next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will take place in the UK in 2018. We urge the CHOGM 2018 organisers to adopt the theme: “A diverse and equal Commonwealth,” and to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) human rights on the main CHOGM agenda and to invite openly LGBTI people from the Commonwealth to address the CHOGM leaders.”

The petition campaign is being organised by the African LGBTI organisation Out and Proud Diamond Group, with the support of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

We are urging citizens in all 53 Commonwealth countries to email the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma, with a copy of the petition:
secretary-general@commonwealth.int and info@commonwealth.int

We are also requesting people in the UK to email their MP. Please ask your MP to urge the British Foreign Secretary to push these proposals to the Commonwealth Secretary General and to the governments of other member states. You can email your MP via this website: www.writetothem.com

Edwin Sesange, Director of the Out and Proud Diamond Group, said:

“According to the Commonwealth website, this year’s theme is: ‘An Inclusive Commonwealth.’ The theme is supposed to celebrate the diversity of the Commonwealth, which is made up 2.2 billion people. The Commonwealth Charter asserts that everyone is equal and deserves to be treated fairly, whether they are rich or poor, without regard to their race, age, gender, belief or other identity. The Commonwealth is committed to building a better world by including and respecting everybody and the richness of their personalities. But so far, the Commonwealth’s inclusivity does not include LGBTI Commonwealth citizens.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, confirmed:

“The Commonwealth leaders’ summit has never in the last 60-plus years discussed LGBTI human rights. Forty out of 53 Commonwealth member states criminalise homosexuality. They account for more than half of the world’s nations where same-sex relations are illegal. Seven Commonwealth nations impose life imprisonment. In parts of Pakistan and Nigeria, there is the death penalty for men who have sex with men. Hate crimes against LGBTI people are widespread in most Commonwealth countries. The vast majority of LGBTIs 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. CHOGM 2018 must remedy these failings by hearing the voices of LGBTI Commonwealth citizens and acting to support their human rights.”

Joan Ayebare Tumwine, a lesbian from Uganda and an Out and Proud Diamond Group activist, added:

“It is a shame that the statement on the Commonwealth website fails to mention that LGBTI people should be treated equally. The Commonwealth can no longer sweep the issue of equality for LGBTI citizens under the carpet or sugar coat it. Most of the anti-LGBTI Commonwealth countries inherited their anti-gay laws from Britain during the period of colonial rule; making these laws a colonial hang-over.”

Chukuwema Ewulu, a Nigerian gay man and a campaigner with the Out and Proud Diamond Group, stated:

“Four out of five Commonwealth countries criminalise same-sex relations. They have failed to adhere to the principles of the Commonwealth Charter and the Commonwealth has failed to rebuke them. They don’t respect the human rights of their LGBTI citizens. This failure has severe consequences for LGBTI citizens.”

Aidah Asaba, who is involved with the Out and Proud Diamond Group, observed:

“The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) has never in its entire six-decade history discussed LGBTI human rights. The time has come. We urge CHOGM 2018 to lead the way in raising awareness of LGBTI rights as human rights and to act to remedy LGBTI rights abuses. The time has come.”

According to Abbey Kiwanuka, the CEO of the Out and Proud Diamond Group:

“It is very important for the leaders of the Commonwealth to listen to us, the LGBTI peoples of the Commonwealth. We can no longer sit back and blame our history of colonisation. Commonwealth countries like Uganda and Nigeria have the capacity to repeal their anti-LGBTI laws. We do not expect the United Kingdom or any other LGBTI-friendly country to tell these anti-LBGTI nations to decriminalise homosexuality but we do request them to help initiate a dialogue between the governments in anti-LGBTI countries and their LGBTI communities. They could also offer their expertise and experience in how to repeal discriminatory laws. We LGBTI people of the Commonwealth offer our help and support. We hope leaders and other stakeholders in the Commonwealth will join with us to ensure that CHOGM 2018 hears our voices for equality and supports legal protection against discrimination for LGBTI people.”