fbpx Skip to main content

At our end-of-year reception, held at One Great George Street in the heart of Westminster, we presented a lifetime achievement award to Victor Madrigal-Borloz, who recently concluded a six-year term as United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. We also recognised South African human rights campaigner, founder of Access Chapter 2 and Chair of The Commonwealth Equality Network with an award for Human Rights Defender of the Year. The event was attended by parliamentarians, embassy representatives and Kaleidoscope Trust supporters.

Speaking at the reception, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust, said:

“When Kaleidoscope Trust was formed twelve years ago, 79 countries criminalised consensual sex between people of the same gender. That figure now stands at 65, with discriminatory laws being overturned in the Cook Islands and Mauritius just this year. 

“We welcome this progress and applaud the tireless work of the civil society activists and policy makers who made this happen. But the fact remains that there is still a long way to go. Whilst we celebrate positive legislative change, this year has seen more negative than positive news when it comes to legislation. I’m sure everyone in this room is aware of the enactment earlier this year of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act. 

Sadly, Uganda is not alone. This year we have also seen the parliament in Ghana press ahead with plans to pass its own anti-LGBTI+ law and legislators in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania plan to bring in similar legislation.”

Phyll went on to praise the recent UK Government White Paper on International Development for its recognition of the risks posed to human rights around the world and its commitment to continuing to work for communities whose rights are a risk, including LGBTI+ people. But she also said that the Government must go ‘further and faster’ to promote global LGBTI+ rights. 

At the event we also marked the imminent departure of Phyll as Kaleidoscope Trust’s Executive Director, as she leaves this role to become full-time CEO of UK Black Pride in the new year. However, Phyll’s association with Kaleidoscope Trust will continue as she becomes a Patron.

Bidding farewell to Phyll, our Chair Simon Millson said: “You’ve transformed Kaleidoscope Trust over the past four-and-a-half years. We have grown from a handful of staff to more than twenty, our reach is global and our efforts, in collaboration with The Commonwealth Equality Network and all our dedicated partners, make a huge impact around the world. I asked my fellow trustees for some words to describe Phyll, and one word came up time and time again: legacy – what you leave behind in an organisation. I think Phyll has done that in buckets, amazing work. We will miss you.”

Accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award, Victor Madrigal-Borloz said: “This is a great honour. As I was thinking of the few words that I’m going to share with you today, I found myself at great difficulty understanding how I was going to really summarise the importance of this place and this institution for my work as Independent Expert. My first meeting as Independent Expert was here in London and Kaleidoscope Trust was a convening organisation for that meeting. Since then you were present, as many other organisations, everyday in the carrying out of my work.

“My country visit to the United Kingdom last May ranks as one of the most extraordinary, not only of my mandate but of the special procedures of the United Nations. Hundreds of human rights defenders, victims of human rights violations, persons with lived experience, state officers, civil servants, all coming together to relate to an institution that has been the result of state and civil society creating something new in the world of international law. For that I thank you. For that role in the history of the mandate and for that role in the history of everything that the mandate has done.”

Also speaking at the reception when accepting the Human Rights Defender of the Year award, Steve Letsike, Chair of The Commonwealth Equality Network, said: 

“I’ve had the privilege of working with amazing human rights defenders who teach me every single day to be compassionate, to be caring, to be daring. We must continue to build friendship and I’m saying this because we have to extend a hand. Many lives are still at stake. What is happening in Uganda, in Ghana, in Kenya, in Tanzania, in Zambia, in Malaysia should not happen anywhere else. Each and every LGBTI person deserves to live. We all need to remember that intersections matter and continue to remember why the Global South matters and why the Global North matters, to build solidarity because we are all connected in this work.”

Photographs from the event by Teofil Rewers

About our award winners

Victor Madrigal-Borloz is a human rights lawyer from Costa Rica. He started his career at the the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. From 2013 he served a four-year term as a member of the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and con-currently served as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. In 2017 he was appointed United Nations Independent Expert on Protection Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, a role in which he served until just last month. Victor is the current Eleanor Roosevelt Senior Visiting Researcher and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.

Steve Letsike is an activist, feminist, leader, mentor and human rights advocate. She is the founder and Executive Director of Access Chapter 2, South Africa and Chair of the Commonwealth Equality Network. She is also the co-chair of South African National AIDS Council and co-chair of the National Task Team to address hate crimes and gender-based violence and serves as a member of the Global UN Women LGBTI reference group.