ERT Urges Commonwealth Heads of Government to Repeal Legislation that Criminalises Same-Sex Sexual Conduct

London, 14 October 2011 

In advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting later this month, The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) has called on the Commonwealth Heads of Government to take immediate steps to repeal legislation that criminalises same-sex sexual conduct. ERT urges the Heads of Government to establish a Ministerial Action Group to address the issue of laws criminalising same-sex sexual conduct and advise states on the legal implications of retaining such laws, and to include a commitment to tackling laws criminalising same-sex sexual conduct in the final communiqué of the 2011 meeting.

Same-sex sexual conduct is currently prohibited in 42 of the 54 countries which are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. These laws allow for the discriminatory abuse of persons on account of their sexual orientation. Furthermore, criminalisation has a broad impact on the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay and bisexual persons. It increases the level of stigmatisation and prejudice they face, and so feeds patterns of discrimination in all areas of life. Such legislation legitimises persecution and victimisation.

ERT’s letter points out that the criminalisation of same-sex sexual conduct is contrary to international law and to Commonwealth Values and Principles. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights both prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Human Rights Committee has often expressed concern about laws criminalising same-sex sexual conduct. The existence of legislation prohibiting same-sex sexual conduct in so many Commonwealth nations also clearly runs contrary to stated Commonwealth values which include equality and respect for protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for all without discrimination on any grounds.

Speaking about the ERT letter to the Commonwealth General Secretary, ERT Executive Director, Dimitrina Petrova, said:
“The existence of laws criminalising same-sex sexual conduct in 42 Commonwealth nations is of grave concern and undermines the international standing of the Commonwealth of Nations as an organisation committed to ensuring the enjoyment of human rights by all persons.

“Heads of Government should make a firm commitment at their 2011 meeting to take immediate action to ensure that laws criminalising same-sex sexual conduct are repealed in all Commonwealth countries.”

To read the ERT letter to the Commonwealth General Secretary, click here.