London’s South Bank University has awarded an honorary doctorate of laws to the human and gay rights campaigner and regular PinkNews.co.uk columnist Peter Tatchell.

The honorary doctorate was awarded at the university’s graduation ceremony. It described Mr Tatchell as follows: “Campaigner, author, journalist and broadcaster, Peter Tatchell has devoted his life to speaking out against discrimination and injustice. Australian-born, he began campaigning for Aboriginal rights while still at school. He moved to London in 1971 and soon became a leading member of the Gay Liberation Front.

“In 1990 he co-founded gay rights group OutRage! and he has also spearheaded other long-running campaigns against apartheid, nuclear weapons, environmental degradation and the death penalty. His work to promote the enforcement of international human rights law has included efforts to secure the prosecution of Robert Mugabe and Henry Kissinger. He is currently leading the Equal Love campaign, aimed at ending the bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships.”

After the ceremony, Mr Tatchell said: “It is wonderful to be honoured by my local university, with which I have been associated for nearly 30 years as an occasional guest speaker. I am grateful to receive this recognition for my four decades promoting the enforcement of human rights law and, in particular, my innovative use of the power of citizen’s arrest in a bid to bring President Mugabe to justice for the crime of torture.

“My contribution to human rights is small. But together with many others I have contributed to major gay law reforms and other human rights advances. Our collective efforts have made a positive difference. I dedicate my acceptance of this award to the heroic democracy, human rights and social justice activists in Uganda who are campaigning against the increasingly authoritarian regime of President Yoweri Museveni. Many of them have been arrested, beaten, tortured and jailed. I salute their extraordinary courage.”

Mr Tatchell added: “I dedicate my acceptance of this award to the heroic democracy, human rights, LGBTI and social justice activists in Uganda who are campaigning against the corrupt, authoritarian regime of President Yoweri Museveni. Many of them have been arrested, beaten, tortured and jailed. I walk in their shadow and salute their extraordinary courage.”

Last September, Southwark Council fixed a blue plaque outside the flat that has for many years was the headquarters of his human rights campaigns.

The plaque unveiled by the actor and Stonewall co-founder Sir Ian McKellen reads: “Peter Tatchell. Born 1952. Campaigner for human rights, gay freedom and social justice. Lived Here. Voted by the people.”

Unusually, Southwark Council occasionally awards blue plaques to living people. The honour given to Mr Tatchell was awarded after a vote by residents.

Last summer, Mr Tatchell was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Sussex.