Commonwealth leaders from around the world meet in Sri Lanka on Friday. Yet again they plan to ignore the criminalisation of lesbian and gay people in 80% of Commonwealth member states, including the current wave of homophobic persecution in Ghana, Cameroon, Zambia, Uganda and Nigeria.
The theme of the protest was:
“Commonwealth member states must stop persecuting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.”
The protesters chanted: “2-4-6-8. Commonwealth stop the hate. 3-5-7-9. Gay love is not a crime” and “Common rights in the Commonwealth. Stop persecuting gays.”
Today’s protest took place just two days before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) opens in Sri Lanka.
The protest was jointly sponsored by the Kaleidoscope Trust, the Peter Tatchell Foundation and the African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group.
A new Kaleidoscope Trust report on the persecution of LGBT people in Commonwealth countries has been published to coincide with CHOGM:
“Commonwealth member states should honour the principles of the Commonwealth Charter. This means: 1) Decriminalisation of homosexuality; 2) Laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; 3) Enforcement of legislation against threats and violence, to protect LGBTI people from hate crimes; and 4) Government consultation and dialogue with LGBTI organisations,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, who coordinated today’s protest.
“Over 40 Commonwealth nations still criminalise homosexuality. They account for more than half of the world’s countries where same-sex relations are illegal. Six of these Commonwealth countries stipulate life imprisonment: Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Guyana.
“This massive scale of anti-LGBT persecution makes a mockery of the Commonwealth Charter that was agreed earlier this year. It supposedly commits the member states to respect universal human rights, including the human rights of millions of LGBT Commonwealth citizens. Despite most member countries having failed to meet this commitment, the Commonwealth Secretariat says and does nothing. Silence is collusion.
“The Commonwealth should have never agreed to hold CHOGM in Sri Lanka, given the country’s appalling human rights record. Around 40,000 Tamil civilians were massacred by government forces in the closing stages of the civil war in 2009. In addition, the Sri Lankan LGBT movement has been forced to go underground after threats against it,” said Mr Tatchell.
Alistair Stewart, Assistant Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, added:
“The Commonwealth has consistently refused to address the issue of human rights for LGBT people and the forthcoming Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka will be no different. More than half of all the countries in the world that still make being gay a crime are in the Commonwealth. This is a stain on an organisation supposedly committed to equal rights for all.”
Edwin Sesange, Director of the African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group, said:
“Although the Secretary General of the Commonwealth continues to condemn homophobia, we are calling for action. Countries that persecute LGBT people - such as Uganda, Cameroon and Nigeria - should be suspended from the Commonwealth. Homophobia and transphobia are violations of human rights and should be raised at the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka by the Secretary General, Prime Minister David Cameron and other national leaders. No future Commonwealth meeting should be held in a country that persecutes LGBT people or violates other human rights.”