The Star Observer has learned further details about Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd’s call for Commonwealth nations to repeal laws that criminalise sexual minorities at the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth in late October.
Rudd raised the issue at an October 27 CHOGM Civil Society event attended by the foreign ministers of 36 countries, which the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed included serial LGBTI human rights offenders Cameroon, Malawi, Nigeria, Pakistan and Uganda.
Canada also raised the matter at the event while the Star Observer understands that British prime minister David Cameron raised it in private discussions with offender countries.
Following a petition campaign by global LGBTI rights campaign All Out that received 30,000 signatures, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma made his strongest statement to date on the issue, telling media that Commonwealth values included “tolerance, respect and understanding”.
“This means we embrace difference, and that includes sexual identity,” Sharma said.
“Discrimination and criminalisation on the grounds of sexual orientation is opposed to our values.”
During CHOGM, heads of government adopted 30 recommendations from the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group report and agreed to adopt, subject to consideration of financial implications, 12 further recommendations.
However, recommendations on HIV/AIDS, including that countries repeal discriminatory laws, were sent, along with 42 other rejected recommendations, to a taskforce of ministers which will provide more detailed advice to Commonwealth foreign ministers at their next full meeting in New York in September 2012.
The Star Observer understands the Commonwealth Secretariat will set up this taskforce, drawing in ministers from all geographic regions of the Commonwealth, in consultation with Australia as the current Commonwealth Chair-in-Office.
Following CHOGM Rudd took to YouTube to make a stand against homophobic bullying at home as part of a video for the It Gets Better campaign.
“This message is for the young folk in our schools who are bullied because they are gay,” Rudd said.
“In Australia it’s reported that one in two LGBTI teens experiences bullying at school. It’s got to stop.”