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The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018

 

A round-up of what we achieved at the "queerest Commonwealth summit in history".

 

 

In April 2018, activists from across the Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) participated in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London (CHOGM).

 

CHOGM is a meeting of heads of government and activists from across the Commonwealth that occurs every two years. At these gatherings, Commonwealth nations agree on their strategic objectives and projects for the next two years.

 

Following TCEN receiving official Commonwealth accreditation in 2017, this year’s CHOGM was the first time that the network of LGBT+ organisations, which was co-founded by Kaleidoscope Trust, has participated in CHOGM in an official capacity.

 

This year’s CHOGM, held in London, saw the largest ever contingent of LGBT+ activists participating. As Secretariat and a founding member of TCEN and strong believers in joint advocacy, Kaleidoscope Trust was proud to host activists from across the world, including LGBT+ and human rights activists from Belize, Seychelles, Malaysia, Namibia and beyond.

 

 

Throughout CHOGM week, TCEN activists represented the LGBT+ community at each of the four forums. Zeleca Julien made a keynote speech at the Women's Forum, speaking about her experience as a queer youth activist in Trinidad and Tobago. She shared the stage with the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and the then UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd. Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Caleb Orozco and Donnya Piggott also spoke in the People's and Youth forums, with Steve Letsike chairing a discussion during the Women’s forum.

 

CHOGM also provided an opportunity for TCEN activists to have direct contact with heads of state, politicians, key decision-makers, business people and even royalty. Akudo Oguaghamba, Executive Director of Women’s Health and Equal Rights (WHER) Initiative, a non-profit organisation focused on protecting the rights of lesbian, bisexual and queer women in Nigeria, had a face-to-face discussion with Joanna Roper, the UK’s Special Envoy for Gender Equality.

 

A delegation of TCEN members met Cypriot Foreign Minister as well as the Prime Minister of Malta, the country which topped ILGA Europe’s Rainbow Index earlier this month for the second year running. Finally, a group of TCEN activists were invited to a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the advancement of LGBT+ rights in the Commonwealth. Activists also spoke with Princes Charles and Prince Harry, as well as UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

 

Addressing CHOGM, British Prime Minister Theresa May urged the Commonwealth nations to overhaul “outdated”, colonial-era legislation that criminalises homosexuality. In a historic move, May also stated that she “deeply regrets” Britain’s history of exporting homophobic laws across the Commonwealth.

 

May said:

 

“I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. As the UK’s prime minister, I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced, and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today"

 

This historic admission, which was a result of lobbying from TCEN members including Kaleidoscope Trust, is the first of its kind among British Prime Ministers.

 

Over the course of CHOGM week, TCEN campaigned to increase LGBT+ visibility. Utilising photographs taken by Eivind Hansen, which were commissioned by Kaleidoscope Trust alongside video content, LGBT+ issues were at the forefront of the media discussion. TCEN activists were featured in The Guardian, The Independent, Pink News, The Times, BBC Radio 4 and many more platforms internationally.

 

An exhibition of Eivind Hansen’s photographs was hosted by Pinsent Masons, a Stonewall Top 100 employer based in central London. Queer Commonwealth: Faces of the LGBT+ Movement will return during Pride month in July, hosted by Australia House.

 

The week ended with a reception hosted by the Speaker of the House of Commons and Chair of Kaleidoscope Trust John Bercow. At this event, new funding was announced 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

 

CHOGM 2018 was a breakthrough for LGBT+ visibility on the Commonwealth stage. TCEN remained united and focused to champion equality throughout the week, making CHOGM 2018 the queerest Commonwealth summit in history.

 

 

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