Kaleidoscope, a new international gay rights campaign, launches tonight

I have been invited to the launch of Kaleidoscope Diversity Trust in the State Rooms of the Speaker’s House this evening. Kaleidoscope is a major new initiative in the global campaign for diversity, supporting LGB&T people suffering persecution around the world. The Trust says it will work with local gay rights campaigners and lobby for equal rights in areas such as Africa and the Middle East. It will focus on crises involving individuals and emerging gay rights movements.

Kaleidoscope acknowledges that any are fortunate to live in countries where there has been significant progress towards ending discrimination against people on grounds of their sexuality and that around the world there are signs of progress. But in many countries laws and cultural attitudes still make it impossible for gay men and women to live full and productive lives free from fear.

The campaign for diversity and an end to discrimination around the world is being fought by many thousands of individuals and groups on every continent. Progress varies from place to place but the goal is always the same.

Those who promote discrimination and hatred find it much easier to get their message across than those who argue for understanding and mutual respect. Kaleidoscope intends to work to ensure that the case against homophobia is heard wherever possible.

It plans to commission and promote research to counter hatred of homosexuals whether for cultural, religious or any other reason because fighting prejudice and ignorance requires well-presented arguments based on reliable evidence.

Kaleidoscope brings together people with wide experience of politics, diplomacy and campaigning to apply pressure for change on governments, international organisations and those with the power to make change a reality.

The Trust has been endorsed by all three major British party political leaders and its Honorary President is the Speaker of the British House of Commons, John Bercow MP.

In endorsing the new project, Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Our country has made real progress on LGB and T equality and, without forgetting how far we’ve still got to go domestically, it is right that we should now increasingly turn our attention towards bringing about change abroad. In some countries, it’s simply appalling how people can be treated – how their rights are trampled on and the prejudices, and even violence, they suffer. So I want Britain to be a global beacon for reform. That’s why I am delighted to send my best wishes to Kaleidoscope, and wish them well in their work. We look forward to the contribution that Kaleidoscope will make to the debate on and progress towards equality worldwide.”

The director of Kaleidoscope is Lance Price, a former BBC journalist and special advisor to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He said:

“So many people have given up their time and energy to make Kaleidoscope possible. They know who they are it’s now our responsibility to translate their hopes and efforts into something that can really make a difference. I am especially grateful to those women and men born and brought up in countries where just to be gay is to be in danger. Their experiences and their views have helped shaped everything we plan to do at Kaleidoscope.

“Now we look forward to welcoming new supporters and getting down to work. The scale of the task appears daunting and it is. But wherever there has been progress, where unjust laws have been repealed, and where homophobic attitudes have been successfully challenged, the process was invariably started by a few brave individuals. They felt isolated, they faced abuse and attack, but they knew that they had right on their side.

“There are men and women with just the same courage, facing just the same threats and dangers, in every country where discrimination and persecution persist. They too have right on their side. With your help they can feel less isolated and be better equipped to take on the challenge they face.”

Bisi at Black Gay Pride 2010, 2nd from right, with Davis Mac-Iyalla and Revd Jide Macaulay

One such individual is Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian gay rights activist who fell foul of the authorities after being the first person in his country to come out on a national television. He is among the founding members of Kaleidoscope. Bisi said: “I was attacked, tied up and beaten in my own home in Lagos. For the first time in my life I not only saw a gun but I felt it right against my head. I was forced to leave my country. My dream is that others like me will be free to stay and be happy, surrounded by the love of their friends and families.”

The Guardian newspaper reported the launch of the Trust on Monday and praised it in a leading article. The blog LGBT Asylum News, established in January 2008 to help save 19 year old gay Iranian Mehdi Kazemi from deportation, has also reported on today’s launch.

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