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The Equality & Justice Alliance – a consortium composed of international NGOs Kaleidoscope Trust, Human Dignity Trust, The Royal Commonwealth Society and Sisters For Change – will implement a £5.6 million programme to build fairer, more equal and more inclusive Commonwealth societies by supporting countries seeking to reform laws that discriminate against women and girls and LGBT+ people.

We welcome the announcement made by Prime Minister Theresa May during the Commonwealth Summit in London last week that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will fund the Alliance’s ambitious 2-year programme, which will engage with Commonwealth leaders, governments and civil society actors to advance equality and equal protection before the law in order to secure the rights of all Commonwealth citizens, regardless of gender, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression.

Speaking to the Joint Forums of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the Prime Minister expressed “deep regret”for Britain’s historic role in instituting “discriminatory laws made many years ago [that] continue to affect the lives of many people, criminalising same sex relations and failing to protect women and girls”. The result of these laws is that women and girls and LGBT individuals do not have equal protection of the law and still suffer discrimination, violence and/or criminalisation on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity in many Commonwealth countries.

The Equality & Justice Alliance’s programme will provide support to countries that are seeking to address this systemic discrimination by working with a range of stakeholders to secure the rights of women and girls and LGBT people. The programme will:

  • Support Commonwealth civil society organisations to work intersectionally and conduct advocacy to engage with the legislative and policy process;
  • Convene a series of regional dialogues to build a better understanding of international standards and best practice, strengthen policy exchanges between civil society, officials and experts and to highlight the benefits of legal reform;
  • Provide a range of legal and policy research tools and technical legal assistance and expertise to Commonwealth governments seeking to reform discriminatory laws, combat violence against women and girls, eliminate hate crimes and increase access to justice.

Kaleidoscope Trust Executive Director Paul Dillane said: “The Equality & Justice Alliance is delighted to be delivering this important initiative and looks forward to working with a range of Commonwealth Governments, activists and regional experts to push forward equal rights and end discrimination against LGBT communities.”

Human Dignity Trust Director Téa Braun said, “The law plays a central role in ensuring equality and human dignity for all, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. The Equality and Justice Alliance is delighted to be able to help leverage global legal expertise and experience to support Commonwealth governments to pursue vital law reform to end discrimination and violence.”

The Royal Commonwealth Society Executive Director Michael Lake CBE said, “The UK Government’s support of this initiative, as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, demonstrates the Commonwealth’s commitment to combat structural and systemic inequality and builds upon the Commonwealth’s proud history of taking action to promote and protect democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law.”

Sisters For Change Executive Director Alison Gordon OBE said, “Ending subordination of and discrimination against women and girls – in law and practice – is central to combating violence against women and girls and building more just and inclusive societies. The Equality and Justice Alliance – with women’s rights and LGBT organisations working together – highlights the value and power of working intersectionally to ensure equality for all.”