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Commonwealth leaders urged to tackle gay rights issues

A PROTEST organised by the African Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI) community descended on the London headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat, demanding their rights be placed on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta.

The protest, which took place on November 25, called on all Commonwealth member states to “decriminalise homosexuality and legislate equal rights for their LGBTI citizens, in accordance with the human rights principles of the Commonwealth Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

The well-attended protest was led by the African LGBTI organisation, the Out and Proud Diamond Group, supported by the Peter Tatchell Foundation, Rainbow Across Borders, Rainbow International and African Rainbow Family.

“For 66 years, the Commonwealth Summit (CHOGM) has refused to even discuss LGBTI human rights, let alone support LGBTI equality. This CHOGM is no different. They won’t even allow LGBTI rights on the agenda,” said Peter Tatchell, director of Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Tatchell’s organisation has been lobbying the Commonwealth on LGBTI issues for over 20 years.

While debating LGBTI rights weren’t on the CHOGM agenda, what was discussed was climate change and terrorism. Pointing out that 40 of the 53 member states criminalise homosexuality, campaigners accused these countries of endorsing “state-sponsored homophobia”.

Tatchell added: “Ninety per cent of Commonwealth citizens live in Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence and where LGBTI people have no legal protection against discrimination and hate crime.

“It is state-sponsored homophobia and it is happening in 75 per cent of the Commonwealth member nations, without any public rebuke by the Commonwealth leadership.”

Some of the member states that organisers pointed out had become increasingly dangerous include Uganda, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Uganda has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while in the 12 northern states of Nigeria the maximum penalty for male homosexuality is death.

Tatchell concluded: “Many of the anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth were imposed by Britain in the 19th Century, during the era of colonial occupation. But this is no excuse for now independent self-governing nations to perpetuate foreign-dictated homophobic legislation.”

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