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Baroness Scotland first woman to lead Commonwealth body

MAKING HISTORY: Baroness Scotland

BARONESS PATRICIA Scotland has made history to become the first woman to hold the post of secretary-general of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The former Labour minister was named on November 27 to replace Kamalesh Sharma of India, whose eight-year tenure comes to an end in March next year.

Her election was announced at the leaders’ summit of 53 Commonwealth nations in Malta on Friday (Nov 27).
Baroness Scotland is also the first Briton to hold the job.

The role, which comes with an annual salary of nearly £160,000, and a four-storey Edwardian mansion in London as her official residence. 

The Dominica-born barrister, who has dual nationality, will assume the office in spring of 2016.

She has already promised her tenure will be historic for more reasons than one.

Scotland has said she would “absolutely” be talking to member states about LGBT rights following the protests outside the Commonwealth offices just last week.

However, she refused to guarantee that the issue would be on the agenda at the next CHOGM, noting that the Commonwealth operated by consensus and so needed to be persuaded rather than told what to do. 

Scotland has promised she will spend the first two years of her tenure as the Commonwealth’s top diplomat persuading 40 of its member states to decriminalise homosexuality. 

While Prime Minister David Cameron did not publicly back Baroness Scotland for the position, he was amongst the many who congratulated her, adding that she was “the right person” to promote “human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.

The Baroness also pledged to prioritise gender equality and combat domestic violence.

“One in three women in our world suffer from domestic violence. It's the greatest cause of morbidity between women and girls," she said, adding that there was “a lot of work to do".

The 60-year-old added: “Forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child abduction... these issues affect all of us. I am incredibly proud to be the first woman secretary-general."

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