LGBT Commonwealth debate delayed till at least 2018

Baroness Patricia Scotland

Baroness Patricia Scotland, the new Secretary-General of the Commonwealth

The new head of the Commonwealth says that millions of LGBT people will have to wait till at least 2018 to have their right to equality debated by Commonwealth leaders, if they’re lucky.

In an interview with The Independent, Baroness Patricia Scotland, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, said she hopes to have the issue discussed at the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in three years’ time.

Scotland, who is a dual citizen of the UK and Dominica, was elected to her position at last week’s CHOGM in Malta, where LGBT rights were shamefully once again not on the official agenda.

This despite 40 Commonwealth countries continuing to outlaw LGBT people, especially in Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia. This encompasses 2 billion of the 2.9 billion people worldwide who live in countries where it is a crime to be gay.

“What we have to accept is that this [decriminalising homosexuality] is something that will depend on consensus. We do not have the right or opportunity to force states, but we can start a really good conversation to work with them so they understand the economic issues in relations to human rights and make the change,” Scotland told the newspaper.

She added that, “The one thing I have to do is to build consensus and trust and I can hope it will [be on the next CHOGM agenda].”

In a report issued last week on the plight of LGBT people in Commonwealth countries, it was pointed out that over the last 50 years anti-gay laws have largely remained unchanged in the Commonwealth and three recent decisions by courts in India, Singapore and Malaysia have made matters worse.

The criminalisation of homosexuality is not only a direct human rights issue but has also been linked to increasing HIV infection rates.

The Commonwealth is an association of 53 nations, including South Africa, most of which are former British colonies.

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