Commonwealth must repeal punitive laws

Support the International HIV / AIDS Alliance

Sign the petition to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers

London – 17 September 2012


“Commonwealth countries should repeal discriminatory, punitive laws against LGBT people, sex workers and drug users. These laws undermine the fight against HIV,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights lobby, Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“Please sign the International HIV/AIDS Alliance petition to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers, ahead of their crucial meeting in New York on 29 September.

SIGN here:

“This petition has the backing of a worldwide network of HIV and human rights organisations, from the global north and the global south.

“Partly as a result of previous lobbying, at the last Commonwealth summit in October 2011, there was a recommendation that member states take steps to repeal discriminatory laws that impede effective HIV responses.

“No action has ensued, despite huge HIV pandemics in many Commonwealth countries. That’s why we need your help to petition the Foreign Ministers.

“Equally, the Commonwealth has not implemented the 2011 recommendations to:

– Appoint a Commonwealth Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights.

– Agree a Commonwealth Charter affirming human rights and action to combat HIV and other health threats.

“The unimplemented draft version of the Charter includes no commitment to tackle HIV or to ensure freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“HIV is a public health and human rights issue. Violations of human rights undermine the battle against HIV.

“The Commonwealth association of 54 nations includes 30% of the world’s population but more than 60% of the world’s HIV infections.

“When the Commonwealth Ministers of Foreign Affairs meet on 29 September they are expected to decide whether to reform repressive laws – or to retain them, as they have done for the last three decades of the HIV pandemic.

“We need your help to make sure they agree to remove legal penalties that discourage many vulnerable, marginalised people from coming forward for HIV education, prevention, testing, treatment and support.

“Criminalizing people living with, and vulnerable to, HIV must cease. These harsh laws make it much harder for men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and drug users to access the HIV prevention, treatment and support services they need.

“Of the 54 Commonwealth nations, more than 40 criminalise same-sex relations, mostly as a result of laws that were imposed by Britain in the nineteenth century, during the colonial era, and which were not repealed when these nations won their independence.

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

“There are, or have been, homophobic witch-hunts in several Commonwealth countries: Nigeria, Cameroon, Malaysia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Ghana.

“Please support this timely, commendable initiative from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. SIGN:

This petition campaign has the backing of: International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Terrence Higgins Trust, Alliance India, Alliance Uganda and Alliance Linking Organisations across the Commonwealth including the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), Kenya AIDS NGO Consortium (KANCO), the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC), the Network on Ethics/Human Rights, Law & HIV/AIDS Prevention, Support and Care (NELA) in Nigeria and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

For further information:

Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Email: [email protected]