LGBTI citizens demand action from Commonwealth Leaders

Saint Lucia is among fifty-three (53) member nations included in a report calling on Commonwealth leaders take action to stop widespread human rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. “SPEAKING OUT: The rights of LGBTI citizens from across the Commonwealth” is published by the Kaleidoscope Trust in advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka this November 2013. It features United and Strong, Saint Lucia’s sole LGBTI representative organization, with a testimony from U&S secretary Jessica St. Rose.

Kaleidoscope Trust notes that this report is compiled by the biggest ever coalition of LGBTI organisations from across the Commonwealth. Speaking Out documents human rights abuses against LGBTI people and demands that Commonwealth leaders take action.

Sir Shridath Ramphal, former Commonwealth Secretary-General, penned the foreword of the publication. He quotes Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said, ‘All over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are persecuted…We make them doubt that they too are children of God – and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy.’

Dr. Ramphal reminds that, “For most of the countries of the Commonwealth, the desecration of our fellow citizens began in the law. The unreformed law of England was transported through criminal codes by imperial masters to far-flung outposts of empire….today 41 of 53 Commonwealth countries have virtually the same legislation enacted almost as a matter of course by colonial administrators – not by the societies they governed. That law is still on our statute books – a relic of empire that has no place in a modern Commonwealth. As with the abolition of slavery, the decriminalisation of homosexuality in our time must be an act of law.”

In the introduction Dr Purna Sen former head of human rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat and Chair of the Kaleidoscope Trust, says to Speaking Out “is a vivid testament to why that organization (Commonwealth), which claims in its Charter to be ‘implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination’, continues to let down millions of its own people… Over half the countries in the world that criminalise homosexuality are in the Commonwealth.”

“But the voices in this report reflect demands that are not going to go away just because Presidents and Prime Ministers try to close their ears to them. The people whose testimonies are contained here refuse to be silenced. Sooner rather than later the Commonwealth is going to have to tackle the justice deficit that leaves some of its citizens without the rights to which all are entitled.”

Speaking Out calls on all Commonwealth governments in countries which continue to criminalise same-sex sexual activity to repeal this legislation in accordance with:

• The Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international instruments.

• Article II of the Commonwealth Charter.

• Recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group adopted by the Foreign Ministers of all Commonwealth members.

As an immediate step towards meeting the obligations set out in these and other commitments to equal rights for all citizens it also calls on all Commonwealth leaders to:

Engage in meaningful dialogue with their own LGBTI communities.

Put in place an immediate moratorium on the enforcement of existing laws criminalising homosexuality.

Commit to open and free debate across the Commonwealth on the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Support public education initiatives to inform the people of the Commonwealth about the case for LGBTI equality.

Support the right of an LGBTI Association to register with the Commonwealth alongside all civil society organisations and be free to express its views and engage in public debate.

Fully include LGBTI people in development and other programmes on an equal basis with the rest of society.

Commit to include a discussion on equal rights for LGBTI citizens as a substantive agenda item at the next CHOGM.

In Saint Lucia, consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal under indecency statues, and some same-sex sexual activity between men is also illegal under anal intercourse laws. Indecency statutes carry a maximum penalty of five years, and anal intercourse carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

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