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CHOGM fails to move on homosexuality, human rights

CHOGM fails to move on homosexuality, human rights

LAST UPDATED // Monday, 31 October 2011 15:00

PERTH: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) has ended with a sense of deflation, after leaders of member nations in Perth over the weekend ruled out supporting a Commonwealth-wide decriminalisation of homosexuality despite being urged to do so by Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

The 54-nation group also failed to reach a consensus on two thirds of the meeting’s agenda, with member nations turning their backs on a number of key reforms recommended in an Eminent Persons Group report, including the creation of a new Human Rights Commissioner to help investigate alleged human rights violations.

Rudd – who on the eve of CHOGM released an It Gets Better video on YouTube – was apparently only joined by the Canadian Government in making the call for the 41 nations of the Commonwealth that continue to criminalise same-sex relations to alter their laws.

“Minister Rudd did raise decriminalisation of homosexuality with the Commonwealth foreign ministers - and strongly declared Australia's position on decriminalisation, and our determination to continue to advocate for LGBT rights within the Commonwealth and more broadly,” a spokesperson for Rudd said.

“The only other foreign minister to call for decriminalisation, I understand, was Canada.”

Members of the Eminent Persons Group, including former High Court judge Michael Kirby, were forced to release their 200-plus page report publicly during CHOGM after a number of leaders managed to suppress its findings despite it being slated for release months ago.  

Former Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Badawi, a member of the group, had earlier warned against the report being shelved, Canberra Times reported.

“If this CHOGM does not deliver such reforms, it is our duty to sound the caution to you that this CHOGM will be remembered not as the triumph it should be, but as a failure,” Badawi said.

India, Nigeria, South Africa and Sri Lanka were among the countries opposing the reforms, National Post reports.

Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has since suggested that he will not be attending the next CHOGM, to be held in Sri Lanka in 2013, over what he said were concerns over various human rights issues.

Sri Lanka currently also continues to list homosexuality as a criminal offence.

In related matters, up to 3,000 delegates and journalists in Perth for CHOGM have had their travel plans thrown into disarray following the decision late last week by airline Qantas to ground its entire fleet as part of its ongoing dispute with staff, the ABC reports.


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