Wednesday , 20 March 2019

Call for First Minister to condemn Commonwealth homophobia

Peter Tatchell, Frank Mugish and other LGBTI activists urge Commonwealth to decriminalise same-sex acts
Peter Tatchell, Frank Mugish and other LGBTI activists urge Commonwealth to decriminalise same-sex acts

Human rights activists from around the Commonwealth have called for action on homophobia in the Commonwealth, while Peter Tatchell has directly called upon the First Minister to condemn it.

“We are asking Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, to express his grave concern at the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) people in 42 of the 53 Commonwealth member states,” said Tatchell. “We urge him to appeal to all participating countries to adhere to Article 7 of the Commonwealth Games Federation constitution, which prohibits all discrimination.”

He went on to argue that countries which do not respect Article 7 should not come to Glasgow or participate in future Commonwealth Games events.

As well as expressing concern about homophobia and transphobia, he raised concerns about “widespread gender and ethnic discrimination in many Commonwealth countries” and said that nations competing in the games should be required to sign a non-discrimination pledge.

Nigerian LGBTI activist Bisi Alimi expressed similar concerns. “As the eyes of the world are focused on Commonwealth countries as athletes converge in Glasgow, it is important to align with LGBTI people of the Commonwealth. LGBTI people have had to bear the burden of not just colonial laws discriminating against many of them, but in the case of Nigeria, yet further criminalisation. This is why along with many other LGBTI people of the Commonwealth, I am calling for the end to hate, stigma and discrimination.”

It is unfortunate that the Commonwealth is so silent and non-committal on LGBTI human rights issues affecting members of the Commonwealth family,” said Monica Tabengwa of Botswana. “It is time now for this institution to get involved and come up with effective measures and guidelines for holding countries responsible for human rights violations based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”

“This is an issue that needs attention, and we commend the call to action to the Commonwealth and its members. We hope that the Scottish and UK Governments will give their support to taking this work forward,” said Scott Cuthbertson, Community Development Coordinator at the Equality Network.

The activists’ call was issued at the day-long LGBTI Human Rights in the Commonwealth conference which was organised to highlight discrimination faced by LGBTI people in many Commonwealth states.

“The Games provide a great opportunity for Scotland to share good practice with other countries to promote discussion and positively influence change on these issues,” said a Scottish Government spokesperson in response to the call.  “This Government is clear that we condemn human rights abuses wherever they occur, and we expect states to abide by international human rights obligations.  We are a progressive nation in terms of LGBTI equality, and are showing clear leadership by investing £25,000 in establishing a Pride House during the games, which was officially opened today by Cabinet Secretary for Commonwealth Games Shona Robison.
 
“The venue on Albion Street will demonstrate a commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality on the international stage and play host to a range of sports, discussion, cultural and arts events aimed at breaking down the barriers which discourage LGBTI people from participating in sports.
 
“For the duration of the Games the Scottish Government will be flying the rainbow flag from St Andrews House in Edinburgh. This is the first time a Scottish Government building has flown the rainbow flag and it reinforces our commitment to equality.”

About Jennie Kermode

Jennie Kermode is a professional journalist who also edits at Eye For Film and who has written for publications including The Independent, The New Statesman, The Press Gazette, Pink News and Mosaic. Chair of reform charity Trans Media Watch, Jennie is also a member of the Equality Network and the Scottish Transgender Alliance.

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