Lobby group advocates for new Commonwealth Charter on LGBT people

Britain’s Kaleidoscope Trust has submitted its recommendations for changes to the Commonwealth Charter and called for an agreed timetable to end the criminalisation of LGBT people.

The call came in response to a request by the Royal Commonwealth Society for proposals to amend the new draft Charter of the Commonwealth. Eighteen countries in Africa are currently part of the Commonwealth of Nations (with Zimbabwe having departed in 2003).

The Kaleidoscope Trust drew attention to the words of the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, that ‘we oppose discrimination or stigmatisation on any grounds including those of sexual orientation’ and said it was time for the organisation to live up to its values.

The current draft makes no reference to sexual orientation and the Kaleidoscope Trust has recommended that it be amended to read:

‘We believe in human diversity and human dignity and we oppose all forms of discrimination whether it be based in race, ethnicity, creed, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or other like cause.’

The Trust also called for the Charter to enshrine the recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group for a new Human Rights Commissioner and go further, setting out a timetable for decriminalisation. It recommended that the text read:

‘We affirm that, in the face of serious or persistent violations of the values expressed in this Charter, silence on the part of the Commonwealth is not an option. To this end we accept the recommendation of the EPG that a new Commissioner for Democracy, Law and Human Rights be appointed and agree that the Commonwealth commit itself collectively to the repeal within an agreed timetable of all laws criminalising people for their sexual orientation or gender identity.’

Simon Fanshawe, one of the Trustees of the Kaleidoscope Trust, said: “Different struggles have their time. The acknowledgement that LGBT people should be accorded basic human rights is now the demand of many citizens in countries throughout the world. Amongst the Commonwealth members, sadly, there is a large number of countries who are either not guaranteeing the human rights of their LGBT citizens or are actively denying them. In so doing they are damaging the Commonwealth’s desire to be a strong and respected voice in the world.”

The Kaleidoscope Trust will be using the occasion of World Pride in London in July, for which it is the official charity partner, to launch a new campaign for decriminalisation across the Commonwealth.

The Kaleidoscope Trust is a registered charity that deploys resources and expertise in support of those threatened by prejudice and criminal sanctions solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It encourages dialogue and cooperation between countries at different stages in the development of a diverse, prosperous and just society free from homophobia.

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