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Commonwealth Secretary-General responds to LGBTI rights petition

Petition Handover

Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, has responded to our petition calling on Commonwealth institutions and member states to take action on LGBTI rights. The petition was jointly delivered to the Commonwealth headquarters in London earlier this month by representatives of the Equality Network, the Kaleidoscope Trust and the Peter Tatchell Foundation. Priyanka Chauhan, Acting Head of the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Office, received the petition.

The Secretary-General responded to the petition with a letter stating that ‘equality and non-discrimination are important tenents of the Commonwealth Charter’, he also outlined ongoing work to build the capacity of national human rights institutions and parliaments to protect and promote equality and non-discrimination. The full text of Mr Sharma’s letter can be found here.

The petition, signed by 2,500 people, was collected by the Equality Network and LEAP Sports Scotland at Pride House Glasgow, Glasgow Pride, Pride Scotia and online in the run up to and during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The petition was part of wider efforts to highlight LGBTI human rights during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow which included an international conference at the University of Glasgow. The conference gathered human rights activists from across the Commonwealth resulting in a joint declaration on LGBTI rights. LEAP Sports also facilitated a Pride House for LGBT athletes and spectators during the games and the Equality Network curated an exhibition the LGBTI people of the Commonwealth.

The Equality Network would like to thank everyone who took the time to sign the petition and all the partner organisations involved.

The petition stated:

To the Commonwealth Secretary General

Of the 53 member states of the Commonwealth, 42 continue to criminalise consensual adult same-sex relationships, with maximum penalties in some states of life imprisonment or execution. Across the Commonwealth, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people are denied equal access to rights, education, employment, housing and
healthcare.

We call on Commonwealth member states to:

1. Immediately stop applying laws that criminalise lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex (LGBTI) people and limit their access to human rights.

2. Work with local LGBTI and human rights groups to better understand the struggles they face in accessing their human rights.

We also call on the Commonwealth Secretariat to:

1. Work with member states to uphold the Commonwealth Charter in full, by developing a shared understanding of the required non-discrimination grounds as including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

2. Work with member states to meaningfully include LGBTI rights into national human rights frameworks.

3. Work with LGBTI groups across the Commonwealth to better understand the struggles they face in accessing their human rights.

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