Here until LGBTI+ people are free, safe and equal everywhere
Much of the persecution, discrimination and violence faced by LGBTI+ people across the Commonwealth originates from the United Kingdom’s colonial rule. Alongside contemporary cultural attitudes and mores, British colonisers exported homophobic laws that penalised those who lived and loved outside of established British societal norms. To this day, LGBTI+ people – and those who don’t fit into narrow expectations of gender and sexuality – are penalised, persecuted and discriminated against because of those colonial-era laws.
The founders of Kaleidoscope Trust came together to help change these laws and to encourage the UK Government to take responsibility for its colonial legacy. Our work has since expanded to include supporting on-the-ground interventions led by activists and civil society organisations, but is firmly rooted in the belief that LGBTI+ people should be free, safe and equal everywhere.
In 2011, Kaleidoscope Trust was founded and pledged to work with activists, parliamentarians and governments to put an end to sexuality and gender-based discrimination, and to influence positive policy change across the Commonwealth.
In 2013, Kaleidoscope Trust was a founding member of The Commonwealth Equality Network, a network of organisations challenging inequality based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.
In the same year, Kaleidoscope Trust and other British LGBT+ organisations urged the Ugandan Government to pressure President Museveni to not ratify the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
From 2014, Kaleidoscope trust has developed a robust presence at both Conservative and Labour Party Conferences, playing a vital role in party debates about the situation of LGBT+ people around the world.
Kaleidoscope Trust has become a trusted international partner for the UK government and other Commonwealth member states, allowing the organisation to influence policy and decision-making regarding LGBT+ human rights.
In July 2014, Kaleidoscope Trust played a vital role in bringing together partners for a Glasgow Conference on LGBT+ Rights, which preceded the Commonwealth Games.
In November 2015, Kaleidoscope Trust released a ground-breaking report titled “Speaking Out 2015: The Rights of LGBTI People across the Commonwealth”, which documented the Commonwealth’s poor record in protecting the rights of its LGBT+ citizens, including testimonies from LGBT+ people in almost every Commonwealth country. The report provided valuable evidence for The Commonwealth Equality Network’s advocacy meetings at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta later that year.
Malta’s CHOGM was the first formal opportunity for the Network to hold two side-events on the LGBT+ human rights agenda and increase its influence with parliamentarians and policy-makers. The Maltese Government initiated the first Women’s Forum where Kaleidoscope Trust’s then-Executive Director, Felicity Daly, gave a short speech.
In January 2016, Kaleidoscope Trust’s commitment to rethinking systemic discrimination and the responsibility of institutions to tackle it, led the organisation to fund the Out & Proud Diamond Group to travel to Canterbury Cathedral to protest against the Anglican Primates meeting. Protestors called on the Primates to support LGBT+ people within and outside the Church and to campaign against the persecution of LGBT+ people worldwide.
In June 2017, The Commonwealth Equality Network was formally accredited by the Commonwealth. The Network’s press release mentioned: “Accreditation means that activists will benefit from increased access to, participation in and information about Commonwealth matters. It also sends a strong signal that the voices and needs of LGBTI people are legitimate and LGBTI activists have a vital role in civil society.”
Through Kaleidoscope Trust’s effective advocacy with Commonwealth institutions and the host government of CHOGM 2018, as the network’s Secretariat, a contingent of 38 members of The Commonwealth Equality Network representing 35 countries participated in all four forums of CHOGM 2018 in London. This was by far the largest contingent of LGBTI+ activists ever represented at a CHOGM, and the Network’s numbers, detailed planning and advocacy expertise ensured that LGBTI+ people were visible and our concerns and priorities were heard.
During CHOGM 2018, the Network’s representatives also met privately with several heads of government. This included Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (Malta) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Canada), both of whom reiterated their pledges to champion LGBTI+ rights globally.
A significant achievement at CHOGM 2018 was Kaleidoscope Trust’s contribution to persuading then-Prime Minister Theresa May (UK) to express “deep regret” for the colonial-era laws that criminalise LGBT+ people.
Following CHOGM 2018, the UK Government pledged £5.6M over the next two years for the Equality and Justice Programme. Kaleidoscope Trust co-created and delivered the programme with the Human Dignity Trust, the Royal Commonwealth Society and Sisters for Change.
In March 2019, The Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt MP, announced that a consortium of leading organisations would receive £12 million to promote LGBT+ inclusion in five African cities. Kaleidoscope Trust joined seven other organisations to address the challenges facing LGBT+ communities, promote LGBT+ inclusion in society and drive positive change for LGBT+ people in Africa, under the Strong in Diversity, Bold on Inclusion programme – funded via the Department for International Development UK Aid Connect fund.
In March 2019, Kaleidoscope Trust organised one of the largest gatherings of LGBT+ activists in the world for the Commonwealth Equality Network’s first-ever Global Conference, in Mauritius. In June 2019, our organisation became a UK civil society co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, a grouping of governments working together to protect and advance LGBT+ rights globally and share best practice on domestic policy with one another. Kaleidoscope Trust is currently working with the two other civil society co-chairs to ensure civil society’s voices are heard in the ERC intergovernmental process.
In early 2020 the world was changed by the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. We quickly realised that the impact on LGBT+ communities living through the pandemic in already hostile countries would be huge. In response, we disseminated a survey to gauge the impact of Covid-19 on Commonwealth LGBT+ organisations and the communities they serve. The findings of the survey were sobering, but they provided us with the evidence to convince the UK and other donor governments to unpause funding for LGBT+ human rights in order to address our global community’s urgent and evolving needs resulting from the pandemic.
As the world gradually emerged from the pandemic, at Kaleidoscope Trust we celebrated our tenth anniversary. Demonstrating our commitment to playing a full role in the global LGBT+ rights movement, in February 2021 we became co-chair of the UK Alliance for Global equality, a coalition of 16 UK-based civil society organisations working together to promote and support progress in global LGBT+ rights. We also continued our joint chairship of then Equal Rights Coalition, helping to deliver its first ever five-year strategy.
One year on from the May 2020 publication of ‘LGBTI+ in the Commonwealth in the COVID-19 Era’, we published a follow-on report which showed the impact that the pandemic was continuing to have on LGBT+ communities. Building on the success achieved in previous years, we formed a new partnership with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to deliver the next phase of our work to increase gender and LGBT+ equality.
In June 2022 representatives from Kaleidoscope Trust joined other Commonwealth Equality Network members to advocate for LGBTI+ rights at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.
In September 2022 we completed our term as civil society co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, handing over to new co-chairs Mexico and Germany at the ERC conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Later that year, we published our outline policy manifesto for global LGBTI+ rights, with five clear strategic priorities for the UK Government.