Equal Rights Trust Urges Commonwealth Heads of Government to Condemn Homophobic Laws

In advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting this weekend, the Equal Rights Trust (ERT) has called on the Heads of Government to condemn an Anti-Homosexuality Bill recently introduced in the Parliament of Uganda and to take urgent action to repeal existing homophobic laws across the Commonwealth.

Homosexual conduct is currently illegal in 43 of the 53 Commonwealth nations, despite the commitment in the 1971 Commonwealth Declaration of Principles to “foster human equality and dignity everywhere”.

In a letter to the Commonwealth General Secretary Kamalesh Sharma, ERT urges Heads of Government to:

  • Establish a Ministerial Action Group to address the issue of laws criminalising homosexual conduct and advise member states of the Commonwealth on the legal implications of retaining such laws.
  • Condemn the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was tabled in the Parliament of Uganda in the strongest terms and consider sanctions which would follow from adoption of the Bill.
  • Include a political commitment to tackling homophobic laws in the final communiqué of its meeting.

ERT’s letter argues that current international law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, relying on interpretation by UN human rights bodies and broadly recognized legal principles to support its case. In recent years, the UN Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Right and the Committee on the Rights of the Child have all concluded that the right to non-discrimination includes protection on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Speaking about the ERT letter to the Commonwealth General Secretary, ERT Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova said:

“The 1971 Commonwealth Declaration of Principles commits members to ‘foster human equality and dignity everywhere’, yet 43 Commonwealth countries retain laws which deny equality to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transsexual people.

“In Uganda, the drafters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill believe the current homophobic law is not enough and that there must be ‘comprehensive provision catering for anti-homosexuality’.

“Laws that criminalise homosexual conduct or laws that may be applied to achieve such an effect violate the spirit of the Commonwealth and undermine the commitments made by Commonwealth nations.

“Heads of Government should condemn the Ugandan Bill and make a commitment this weekend to repeal homophobic laws in the Commonwealth.”

To read the ERT statement, click here .