|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
Foreign Ministers agree to end repressive laws. Your 18,000 emails helped win the promise of reform. Commonwealth Foreign Ministers have agreed to scrap repressive laws that inhibit the fight against HIV and to adopt a Commonwealth Charter that includes pledges to uphold human rights. This is a breakthrough, said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, The Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Huge thanks to everyone who participated in the email campaign. Your efforts helped secure success. The big challenge now is to translate these Commonwealth commitments into action. We need more than promises and good intentions.
The Foreign Ministers decision comes after Commonwealth governments were sent 18,000 emails urging reform. This email blitz was initiated and coordinated by the International HIV /AIDS Alliance, supported by the Peter Tatchell Foundation and other human rights and HIV organisations from the global south and north.
The emails urged Commonwealth countries to repeal discriminatory, punitive laws against LGBT people, sex workers and drug users. These laws undermine the fight against HIV.
They also urged implementation of the recommendations of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, including the appointment of a Commonwealth commissioner for human rights, and the adoption of a Commonwealth charter with a strong human rights commitment.
All these proposals have been agreed by the Foreign Ministers. We will continue to pressure the Commonwealth to ensure that they are put into action. Some of the countries that endorsed agreement probably did so reluctantly. They have long histories of homophobia and other repressive policies.
To secure changes in policy will take further sustained pressure, working in alliance with ngos and progressive movements inside these countries. The most effective pressure and change comes from within. As requested, well help assist and empower grassroots activists in the countries that still need to reform. Solidarity is important, said Mr Tatchell.
The International HIV /AIDS Alliance (IHAA) has plans for the on-going lobbying of the Commonwealth Secretariat:
It is vital now to maintain momentum as we move into the implementation stage of the Commonwealth reform process. Our next challenge is to ensure that the Commonwealth Secretariat include this work in their organizational strategic plan which they are currently developing, said Enrique Restoy, campaign manager of the IHAA.
Read the IHAA reaction the Foreign Ministers decision here:
Our sincere thanks to the International HIV /AIDS Alliance for organizing the email campaign, added Mr Tatchell.
We also pay tribute to magnificent efforts of the other organizations involved with us: Terrence Higgins Trust, Alliance India, Alliance Uganda and Alliance Linking Organisations across the Commonwealth including the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), Kenya AIDS NGO Consortium (KANCO), the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC), Support and Care (NELA) in Nigeria and the Network on Ethics/Human Rights, Law & HIV/AIDS.
Of the 54 Commonwealth nations, more than 40 criminalise same-sex relations, mostly as a result of laws that were imposed by Britain in the nineteenth century, during the colonial era, and which were not repealed when these nations won their independence.
The penalties for homosexuality include 25 years jail in Trinidad and Tobago and 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia. Several Commonwealth countries stipulate life imprisonment: Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Guyana.
These forty-plus Commonwealth member states account for more than half of the worlds countries that still criminalise same-sex relations, said Mr Tatchell.
For further information:
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
0207 403 1790