ACCLAIMED human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has blasted Commonwealth chiefs for celebrating inclusion at the upcoming games in Glasgow while turning a blind eye to homophobic persecution among its member states.
The Commonwealth Charter, a document central to an organisation that includes more than two billion people in 53 nations with historic ties to Britain, states that the values and aspirations that unite them all are “democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
Seven of these Commonwealth nations stipulate life imprisonment for consensual same-sex intercourse while in two countries – Pakistan and Nigeria – the maximum penalty is execution.
Homosexuality is legal in only 12 Commonwealth states, including Australia, while same-sex marriage is on the statue books in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
The Commonwealth Games start next month in Glasgow before heading to the Gold Coast in 2018.
“This persecution casts an ugly shadow over what will otherwise be a joyous sporting celebration,” Tatchell said.
“It makes a mockery of the Commonwealth Charter’s commitment to universal human rights.”
Tatchell said many governments reject dialogue with LGBTI organisations while gay rights are off the agenda at the Commonwealth’s heads of government meeting, known as CHOGM.
Progress had been slow, Tatchell said, since the Commonwealth Secretary-General signed a declaration against homophobia in 2011.
“Despite the recriminalisation of homosexuality in India, the homophobic witch-hunts in Cameroon, gay-bashing attacks in Jamaica and the draconian new anti-gay laws in Uganda and Nigeria, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, has been mostly muted or totally silent,” he said.
The report, called Speaking Out – LGBTI rights in the Commonwealth includes first-hand testimony from persecuted LGBTI people.
A Nigerian man recalled his experience of being paraded naked through the streets after allegations he was gay: “People brought several video camera and mobile phone to record my nakedness.
“This inhuman degrading treatment has ruined my life and I have been banished from [the] village.”
Tatchell urged Commonwealth governments to put LGBTI rights on the agenda at the next CHOGM, to repeal legislation criminalising same-sex behaviour and, in the meantime, agree to a moratorium on the enforcement of existing homophobic laws.
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