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Calls for more powers to protect gay rights in Commonwealth

Activist Peter Tatchell is calling on LGBT community to submit amendments to new Commonwealth charter 'explicitly' focusing on gay rights

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

14th March 2012 07:33

Alessia Valenza

Activist Peter Tatchell is calling on the Commonwealth to make a binding commitment to protecting gay rights and fighting homophobia.

The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) is inviting comments and amendments from individuals and organizations on the new Draft Charter of the Commonwealth, which sets out the values and principles shared by the 54 member states.

Submissions can be made on any issue, from human rights and the environment to disarmament and aid and trade.

However, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has criticized the charter for being too vague, blasting it for the lack of ‘explicit commitment to support LGBTI equality and to oppose homophobic and transphobic persecution.’

He also slams the charter for not providing any methods of enforcing human rights and for dealing with member states that perpetrate abuses.

‘Without effective means for the promotion and enforcement of human rights, the charter will remain little more than a wish-list of commendable, but largely symbolic, ideals and objectives,’ Tatchell said.

He added: ‘The Commonwealth Secretary General and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group need stronger, more proactive powers to deal with human rights-abusing member states. The charter needs to specify these powers and how they will be enforced.’

Several Commonwealth countries are renowned for their deplorable gay rights record, with Uganda currently being condemned by the international community for its ‘kill the gays’ bill and Pakistan refusing to take part in last week’s UN debate on LGBT discrimination.

Tatchell is, therefore, calling on people around the world to submit amendments to the charter, focusing specifically on gay rights.

He said: ‘This is a rare opportunity for grassroots LGBTI movements to give input into a document that will guide the Commonwealth for many years to come.’

The draft charter has been drawn up by Heads of Government since 1970 and re-affirms the values of gender equality, human rights, rule of law, good governance and tolerance and respect.

It calls for a commitment to a Commonwealth that is ‘unafraid to evolve and to adapt itself constantly to changing times and fresh challenges’.