Current Affairs

Call to recommend gay and trans protections in new Commonwealth Charter

Stephen Gray March 14, 2012
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Individuals and organisations are being called on to suggest specific gay, transgender and intersex protections in a new consultation on the draft Commonwealth Charter.

The Royal Commonwealth Society has invited comments to the Draft Charter of the Commonwealth before Friday 23 March 2012.

The Charter was one of the recommendations made at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Perth, Australia last year.

While the current draft re-affirms the human rights commitments of the Commonwealth nations, 41 of the 53 current member nations still criminalise gay sex.

As human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell points out, the new Charter currently contains no specific protections for gay or transgender people.

He said: “The Commonwealth has the potential to promote LGBTI human rights among its 54 member states and to challenge those countries that persecute their citizens on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Disappointingly, it is not living up to this potential.”

The charter, which can be downloaded here, lists the values and aspirations of the Commonwealth countries, including peace, economic prosperity, international diplomacy, democracy, the rule of law, human rights protections and gender equality.

But Mr Tatchell points out that LGBTI rights are not specifically included and there are no mechanisms suggested for ensuring human rights compliance.

Mr Tatchell said: “Without effective means for the promotion and enforcement of human rights, the Charter will remain little more than a wish-list of commendable, but largely symbolic, ideals and objectives. It will result in continued LGBTI human rights violations in Commonwealth countries like Uganda, Cameroon, Malawi, Nigeria and Pakistan.

“The Commonwealth Secretary General and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group need stronger, more proactive powers to deal with human rights-abusing member states. The Charter needs to specify these powers and how they will be enforced.”

He recommended the charter include “explicit and comprehensive commitments” to equal rights and non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, national or social origin, ethnicity, gender, opinion or belief, age, disability, medical condition, language, genetic inheritance and marital or birth status.

Mr Tatchell added: “I urge LGBTI individuals and organisations throughout the Commonwealth to join me in submitting amendments to the Draft Charter. This is a rare opportunity for grassroots LGBTI movements to give input into a document that will guide the Commonwealth for many years to come.”

Submissions to the Consultation on the Commonwealth Charter can be made through the consultation website here.

More: Africa, anti-gay law, Asia, Australia, commonwealth, commonwealth of nations, Crime, criminalisation, decriminalisation, decriminalisation of homosexuality, Gay, Law

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