At the next CHOGM meeting in June 2022, let’s change the world.
“The Commonwealth makes the world safe for diversity” ~ Nelson Mandela.
It was once called the empire upon which the sun never sets, comprising maybe one quarter of the world’s land mass and population. But the colonial British empire – divested from colonial empowerment and largely consigned to history – has been replaced by the Commonwealth of Nations, which also spans the globe. Does it serve a purpose today?
The Commonwealth currently boasts 54 member countries, comprising approximately 2.4 billion people, although “32 of the world’s 42 small states are Commonwealth members, each with a population of 1.5 million or less” suggesting that the sun may indeed be setting on its glory days. Its’s time to challenge all Commonwealth nations, great and small, to live up to the potential to which the Commonwealth implicitly aspires.
Lands of Hope and Glory?
While aspiring to leave behind its racist, sexist, jingoistic colonial past behind, the Commonwealth proclaims itself to be a purveyor of equality and non-discrimination; with particular emphasis on respect for diversity and protection for vulnerable peoples:
“Affirming that the special strength of the Commonwealth lies in the combination of our diversity and our shared inheritance in language, culture and the rule of law; and bound together by shared history and tradition; by respect for all states and peoples; by shared values and principles and by concern for the vulnerable…” (Charter of the Commonwealth, 2013, p. i.)
Such are worthy and noble aspirations, but they are far from being met.
LGBT Rights Now!
WikiMilli notes that ‘Homosexual activity remains a criminal offence in 35 of the 54 sovereign states of the Commonwealth; and legal in only 19’. Punishments range from flogging and imprisonment with hard labour, to life imprisonment or death. Related social discrimination leads to violence, hate crimes, increased rates of HIV/AIDS and other health problems, and murder. (Yes folks, this is the Commonwealth in the 21st century).
“Homosexuality is a criminal offence in the following Commonwealth member states (those with an asterisk* do not enforce the law): Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Eswatini, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Singapore, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Brunei, Mauritius,* Sri Lanka,* Samoa,* Malawi,* Namibia,* Sierra Leone,* Antigua and Barbuda,* Barbados,* Dominica,* Jamaica,* Kiribati,* Tonga,* and Tuvalu.*” (List Source: Wikipedia, last edited on 14 March 2022.)
The Human Dignity Trust reports that: “There are more than 70 jurisdictions globally, half of which are Commonwealth countries, that criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity.”
Nor does the Commonwealth like to be reminded of these extensive human rights abuses within its jurisdiction. Its hypocrisy – proclaiming human rights while abusing those same rights for millions of its own citizens – is breath taking. According to its own Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, LGBT rights for millions of Commonwealth citizens is not even on the agenda.
The Human Dignity Trust reports that: “There is a direct link between criminalizing laws and increased rates of HIV, and the Commonwealth undeniably demonstrates this link. The Commonwealth accounts for approximately 30% of the world’s population but over 60% of HIV cases worldwide.” (Human Dignity Trust, in GayStarNews, 2015).
At this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda, during the week of 20 June, it is time to challenge the Commonwealth to join the 21st century instead of deferring to outdated elements of its medieval legacy from colonialism. The Commonwealth needs to repeal its colonial-era laws, address its consequences, and offer redress to its victims.
Sign and share this petition
Please consider carefully how to sign this petition if you live in a nation that has homophobic laws.
In memory of my LGBT+ refugee friend, Trinidad Jerry, who was murdered in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, in 2021.
Note: This is my 100th blog posting, and may be my most important to date. ©2022 Geoff Allshorn