Human Rights Commission praises 'Queen's Charter'
The Queen’s signing of a Commonwealth Charter against discrimination has been heralded as one of the most significant in her reign.
Backed by all 54 Commonwealth nations, the Charter states: “We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”
However, the absence of a specific mention of sexuality as one of the grounds for discrimination has been criticised by some gay activists.
Many Commonwealth countries still criminalise homosexual acts, including Uganda, which is currently considering a bill against homosexuality popularly known as the ‘kill the gays’ bill.
The president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, told GNN the Charter was “a step in the right direction for human rights”.
“It aims to protect the very things that the Australian Human Rights Commission stands for; the right for everyone to experience equality and a life free from discrimination,” Triggs said.
“The Commission would have liked to have seen the inclusion sexual orientation and gender identity, however we expect the term ‘other’ used in the Charter, addresses this.”
When asked how a Charter against discrimination could be endorsed by nations, such as Uganda, that are vehemently opposed to LGBTI people, Triggs said the Commission had no jurisdiction over such countries, “and therefore it is inappropriate for us to comment”.
The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby’s Anna Brown told GNN although the lack of explicit reference to sexual orientation and gender identity was disappointing, the Charter was nevertheless an important endorsement of equality and non-discrimination.
“Over time, there hasn’t been a need to have a treaty for every single minority group in the world” Brown said.
“Human rights law recognises discrimination law evolves to cover different disadvantaged groups over time. I would strongly argue that ‘other grounds’ means there is coverage for other groups, including LGBTI people.”
Brown added that the Queen's signing of the document as Head of the Commonwealth was not a personal endorsement of its contents, a fact the Queen's press office stresses.
However, UK gay rights lobby group Stonewall said it was the “first time that the Queen has publicly acknowledged the importance of the six per cent of her subjects who are gay”.
But gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the Queen had made no "explicit commitment" to homosexual equality.