Actions Speak Louder Than Words

At the next CHOGM meeting in June 2022, let’s change the world.

Art by janeb13 on Pixabay

“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 But the colonial British empire – divested from colonial empowerment and largely consigned to history – has been replaced by the Commonwealth of Nations, which also spans the globe.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!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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.

Take Action.

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

To A Special Friend

For William Katongole (2 February 1989 – 10 March 2022):
gone too soon, too suddenly, and too far from his loved ones.

When in a world
of emptiness,
Friends can be hard to measure,
It’s good to know
that I know you,
Your friendship is a treasure.

To have shared
so much, freely,
with you has been no strife,
I’m glad that you
did open up
the door into your life.

It’s not often
that someone comes,
and makes me have to boast,
that I enjoy
your company
a whole lot more than most.

For even though
My life has been
Occasionally a haze,
I can say
I’m happier now
that you have shared my days.

+ + +

In 1986, a special friend wrote this poem to me, and I treasure it to this day.

Today, I pay it forward by sharing this poem with the world, rededicating it to William, a young man who lived a difficult life, loved his friends deeply, and whose hopeful plans for the future will never be accomplished. Gone but never forgotten.

Original poem © 1986 by Ricky Ransome;
this rededication © 2022 Geoff Allshorn

Lion’s Heart

In honour of International Day of Happiness (20 March).

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

What does it mean to be LGBTQ in countries where being different is a legal or moral crime? How does one live on a continent where being ‘outed’ is likely to lead to family and community rejection, where displaying a rainbow flag is likely to provoke a violent attack, and where the very religion to which one may turn for consolation is the same one that preaches death to queers?

A loved gay friend in Africa recently expressed disillusionment and defined an LGBTQ life as one being full of rejection, pain, suffering, violence, depression, unemployment, discrimination, and an unsafe environment. His life is testimony to such realities.

He wrote poetically and with deep feeling:

This young man fills me with admiration at his courage, his strength and his resilience in the face of hardships. I am proud of this rainbow son, as I am of his whole rainbow family in their adoptive home nation. His lion heart is strong in the face of attack, but gentle to children and those he loves. It is therefore sad to see when he feels down. With love and hugs across the world, I offer him a different definition of what it means to be LGBTQ:

Being LGBTQ means living a full life that is:

Full of love that some might not understand, so we need to keep educating them.

Full of sensitivity that others might not share, so we need to keep exercising it.

Full of potential, so we need to keep being optimistic and enterprising and creative.

Full of difference, so we need to stay proud and diverse.

Full of being fabulous, so we need to enjoy enriching the world with our special skills and perspectives.

Full of pride, so we need to stay strong and forgiving when others are cruel or ignorant or intolerant.

Full of empathy, so we need to keep expressing sympathy for the suffering of others.

Full of humanity, so we need to keep fulfilling our responsibility to care for others in our human family in order to set a better example for those who treat us badly.

Full of humility, so we need to keep loving ourselves with the quiet strength in our hearts.

Full of courage, so we need to stay strong despite our many difficulties.

Full of rainbow, because the world needs the love, sensitivity, potential, difference, pride, fabulosity, empathy, humanity, humility and courage that we possess.

In a world where marriage equality is not the norm but homophobia is, people of good conscience surely have a responsibility to offer a fuller life to those around them. While the International Day of Happiness 2022 proposes that the world rebuild after the trauma of COVID, (‘Build Back Happier’), LGBTQ communities around the world have already experienced a generation of dealing with another, potentially more lethal virus, and we have led the world in developing strategies for harm minimisation and building supportive, safe, loving communities amidst an epidemic. We should do the same for people whose lives have been impacted by the traumatic virus of homophobia. It’s time to rebuild.

©2022 Geoff Allshorn


In honour of International Women’s Day 2022.

From Pexels.

“The story of the human race begins with the female. Women carried the original human chromosome as she does to this day: her evolutionary adaptation ensured the survival of the species: her work of mothering provided the cerebral spur for human communication and social organisation.” – Rosalind Miles, The Women’s History of the World (1989), p. 19.

International Women’s Day is a good time to pause and reflect on the women who enrich our world.

This might include paying tribute to powerful leaders from our world history, such as Wu Zhao, Boudicca, Cleopatra, Queen Nanny, Queen Liliʻuokalani, Evita Peron, Queen Soraya Tarziand, and Indira Ghandi, who dealt with injustice, discrimination and inhumanity by showing their own individual forms of strength and determination.

It should also include acknowledging and honouring women who have been literal and/or figurative mother figures in that they have given birth to much of our world as we know it today: Lucy, Emmaline Pankhurst, Coccinelle, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marsha Johnston, and Coretta Scott King.

We could also honour women like Caroline Herschel, Marie Curie, Wangari Maathai, Hypatia, Ada Lovelace, Sally Ride, and Mary Shelley, and a score of others spanning Africa and Asia and elsewhere who have extended our scientific, intellectual and literary spheres.

Our tribute must include activists such as the Suffragettes, the Mothers of the Disappeared, the protesters of Grand Bassam, and Grandmothers for Refugees; and individuals including Halina Wagowska and Waris Dirie. We must highly esteem indigenous Australian, African, Asian and Pacific Islander women, and those across the Americas.

Let us also pay respects to current and future influencers in our world: Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi, Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Emma Watson, and Anjali Sharma.

Artist: Miriam English

Our list of female heroes must also pay particular tribute to the everyday women who will never individually make the list of rich or famous, but whose tireless work keeps the world going: those who comprise the majority of micro loan accounts and whose work fuels modern economic, family and social industry; those who are overlooked today in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, China and Tibet and Burma and Ukraine and Syria and North Korea, and in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya.

Like the 13th (female) Doctor Who from popular culture, the women we admire span time and place; they inhabit varied diverse cultures and religions and philosophies… but I see their collective activism as comprising the purest and most unifying philosophy of all: recognition of our common humanity across the histories and geographies and societies that together create the entire human family.

Yes, International Women’s Day is a good time to pause and reflect on the women who enrich our world – but so is every day. Let’s stop the discrimination, the disempowerment, the direct and indirect (vicarious) violence, the cultural and religious and social and political bias that women experience every day. Let’s avoid the patronising and tokenistic pat on the head that one day per year may afford, and make every day International Women’s Day.

Let’s honour all the women listed above – and more: let’s esteem every woman for their daily courage and determination to #breakthebias and stereotypes and systemic disempowerment and entrenched sexism and misogyny. Let’s change the world for women, and, in doing so, we will make it a better place for us all.

©2022 Geoff Allshorn