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Kaleidoscope Trust has released their biennial report on the state of LGBTI people’s rights across the Commonwealth.

Speaking Out 2015 documents the Commonwealth’s poor record in protecting the rights of its LGBTI citizens. Of the 53 member states, 40 continue to criminalise same-sex activity. More than 90% of Commonwealth citizens live in a jurisdiction where LGBTI people are criminalised.

There are hopeful signs that the Commonwealth is willing to reflect on how to improve this record. For the first time in its history The Commonwealth People’s Forum, the official gathering of Commonwealth civil society, is hosting two session examining the challenges facing LGBTI people. Activists and policy makers will be looking at ways in which Commonwealth institutions and member states can do more to protect the rights of LGBTI people. The People’s Forum convenes in Malta 23-25 November in advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 27-29 November.

Drawing on contributions from LGBTI human rights organisations from across the Commonwealth, Speaking Out 2015 demands that the Commonwealth take action to overcome the discrimination and violence faced by LGBTI people through:

  • Following the example of other multilateral forums including: the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights; the Organisation of American States and the UN Human Rights Council the Commonwealth must condemn violence on any grounds and make concrete efforts to prevent acts of violence and harassment committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
  • Commit to open and free debate across the Commonwealth on how best to safeguard the rights of LGBTI people.
  • Commit to include a discussion on equal rights for LGBTI citizens as a substantive agenda item at the next CHOGM.
  • 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.

Speaking Out 2015 includes testimonies from LGBTI people in almost every Commonwealth country which reveal pervasive and debilitating discrimination and violence.

“My safety would be my biggest concern…there have been a few acts (of violence) on LGBT members, they were just attacked because they looked at somebody funny, or give a funny stare, they’ve been pelted with stone, or chased. I just don’t feel safe walking in town.” Anonymous Gay Man, Dominica

“Our challenge remains in reaching out to poorer LGBTs, LGBT teens, and LGBTs in rural Malaysia who are being bullied by peers, punished by teachers, abandoned by parents, and harassed by authorities.” Pang Khee Teik, Co-Founder Seksualiti Merdeka, Malaysia

“stigma, discrimination, abuse and violence are part of my daily life. It is not safe for me to walk around freely in my own country. My voice has not been heard when fronted up at the police station. I am not utilising my rights as a human because I am in fear.” Elizabeth Taylor, trans activist, Papua New Guinea.

“Many people think we are useless… Some of us cannot even get jobs just because of our sexuality” Mwijuke, Gilbert, Rwanda

The report also demonstrates the resilience of individual activists and the growing strength of human rights advocacy and LGBTI movements in Commonwealth countries.

“In a country where the whole concept of sex and sexuality is a taboo, we are learning to navigate our ways by highlighting love as the center of all, a human right that can’t be denied, hoping for broader acceptance some day!” Xulhaz Mannan, Bangladesh

“Despite the many hardships, trials and struggles we face as individuals, as an organization and as a community Barbados has a tremendously resilient set of LGBTI people that make an invaluable contribution to Barbadian society.” Donnya Piggott Barbados Gays & Lesbians Against Discrimination (B-GLAD), Barbados

Dr Felicity Daly, Executive Director, Kaleidoscope Trust said:

“While we welcome the positive changes for LGBTI people living in Commonwealth member states since the last CHOGM in 2013 – our report shows there is serious cause for concern remaining in every Commonwealth country. Speaking Out 2015 details LGBTI people are still criminalized in the majority of member states, and face violence, discrimination and significant barriers in accessing their rights to health, employment and education. The Commonwealth, as a network of states, institutions and civil society actors, must play a vital role in ensuring equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Read the report