Commonwealth chief condemns homophobia
In a speech to the UN Human Rights Council the Commonwealth Secretary-General has reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s opposition to any discrimination including that based on sexual orientation.
Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma included human rights violations in his speech following intense lobbying by equal rights advocates but failed to mention the 40 Commonwealth countries who continue to persecute individuals based on sexuality.
“Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is an area of concern on which we have given the perspective of Commonwealth values in various fora, including in this Council,” Sharma said in the speech.
“Our position continues to be that we oppose discrimination or stigmatisation on any grounds, including those of sexual orientation.
“It is for member states to address incompatibilities between Commonwealth values and mostly inherited national laws in these areas.”
However, in response to the speech Peter Tatchell, the Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said Sharma’s criticisms of homophobia were too brief especially when compared to the recent speech by Hillary Cliton.
“His speech made no mention of transphobia and the need for protection against discrimination based on gender identity," Tatchell said.
“Commonwealth states account for more than half of the countries in the world that still outlaw same-sex relationships.
“The penalties include 25 years jail in Trinidad and Tobago and 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia. Six Commonwealth countries stipulate life imprisonment: Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Guyana. In parts of Nigeria and Pakistan, same-sex relationships can be punishable by death.”
Tatchell added that lobbying is continuing in opposition to any form of discrimination and to have all Commonwealth states recognise the human rights values of the Commonwealth.
“Too many Commonwealth countries sanction state executions, censorship, torture, detention without trial and restrictions on free speech and the right to protest - as well as officially endorsed discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality and religion or belief,” he said.
“This has to change. Commonwealth countries have a duty to adhere to Commonwealth values and abide by the international human rights laws they have signed and pledged to uphold.”
Sharma has spoken against homophobia on three other occasions following lobbying from Peter Tatchell and the Justice for Gay Africans group.