Ahead of this weekend’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka, a report released by by an international LGBTI rights group has called on Commonwealth nations to take action against homophobia and transphobia and for homosexuality to be decriminalised across all member countries.
The ‘Speaking Out’ report, produced by the UK’s Kaleidoscope Trust, alongside activists from Australia’s Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation and other countries, details a litany of human rights abuses against LGBTI people where 41 out of the total 53 Commonwealth countries continue to criminalise homosexuality.
“The report reveals that 41 out of 53 Commonwealth nations criminalise homosexuality,” Douglas Pretsell, from Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation, said.
“At almost 80 per cent of the total, that compares very unfavourably with non-Commonwealth nations where only 25 per cent do the same.”
The report has received the backing of former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Sir Shridath Ramphal, and Dr Purna Sen, the former Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth. Ramphal wrote the foreward for the report while Sen contributed its introduction.
“It is a reminder that for most of the countries of the Commonwealth, the desecration of our fellow citizens began in the law,” Ramphal said.
“As with the abolition of slavery, the decriminalisation of homosexuality in our time must be an act of law.”
The report also includes first-hand accounts from citizens across the Commonwealth about the consequences of discrimination and hardships entailed because of bigotry against LGBTI people, including in wealthier nations.
“Singapore masquerades itself as a modern, cosmopolitan city, but when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, it is stuck in a time warp,” Singaporean citizen Tania de Rozario said..
“Consensual sex between men is criminalised, media representations of queer sexualities are policed by government regulators, and there are no laws to protect queer people from discrimination.”
Sri Lanka’s largest city, Colombo, will host the CHOGM from November 10-17. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will be attending despite being called upon by Greens leader Christine Milne and former Liberal prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, to boycott the meeting over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.
Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, have already signalled they will not be attending the meeting due to concerns over the Sri Lankan government’s involvement in war crimes.
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