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The Commonwealth is letting down hundreds of thousands of its citizens whose lives are blighted by homophobia, criminalisation and discrimination according to a new report from the Kaleidoscope Trust, compiled with the assistance of a coalition of Commonwealth LGBTI organisations.

Testimonies from LGBTI people in almost every Commonwealth country contained in the Speaking Out report reveal widespread human rights abuses including attempted murder, beatings and harassment.

“I have lost two teeth, had my family property invaded and car damaged by two masked men . . . I have had stones thrown at me, experienced simulated gun shots, insults and physical harm on public transportation,” says Caleb Orozco, a gay man from Belize.

“LGBTI people are generally considered as animals or devils…so they are in permanent danger. They can be injured, they can be killed, and they can be discriminated against. They can be rejected from healthcare and justice,” adds Alice Nkom, a human rights lawyer from Cameroon.

Drawing on contributions from more than 20 LGBTI human rights organisations, and published by LGBT human rights charity the Kaleidoscope Trust, the report demands the Commonwealth take action on a wholesale abuse of human rights it has stubbornly ignored. Homosexuality is still illegal in 41 of the 53 Commonwealth member states.

The report is backed by Sir Shridath Ramphal, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth and Dr Purna Sen, former Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth.

Sir Shridath Ramphal, states in his foreword to the report:

“It is a reminder that for most of the countries of the Commonwealth, the desecration of our fellow citizens began in the law… As with the abolition of slavery, the decriminalisation of homosexuality in our time must be an act of law.”

Dr Purna Sen, states in her introduction to the report:

“Across the Commonwealth lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people are denied equal access to rights, education, employment, housing and healthcare. Once again we see Commonwealth leaders gathering at the Heads of Government meeting , pushing aside the urgent need to protect every citizen under the law. Once again the human rights of LGBTI people are the elephant in the room.”

The report recommends that:

  • All Commonwealth governments in countries which continue to criminalise same-sex sexual activity to repeal this legislation in accordance with:
  • The Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international instruments including the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
    Article II of the Commonwealth Charter.
  • Recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group adopted by the Foreign Ministers of all Commonwealth members.

As an immediate step towards meeting the obligations set out in these and other commitments to equal rights for all citizens we call on all Commonwealth leaders to:

  • Commit to engage in meaningful dialogue with their own LGBTI communities to facilitate an informed debate about the means to remove all legal and other impediments to the enjoyment of their human rights.
  • Put in place an immediate moratorium on the enforcement of existing laws criminalising homosexuality.
  • Commit to open and free debate across the Commonwealth on the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
  • Support public education initiatives to inform the people of the Commonwealth about the case for LGBTI equality.
  • Support the right of an LGBTI Association to register with the Commonwealth alongside all civil society organisations and be free to express its views and engage in public debate.
  • Fully include LGBTI people in development and other programmes on an equal basis with the rest of society.
  • Commit to include a discussion on equal rights for LGBTI citizens as a substantive agenda item at the next CHOGM.

Read the report