A report on the rights of LGBTI people in the 53 Commonwealth countries has shown 40 continue to criminalise homosexuality or "same-sex activity".
The 'Speaking Out 2015' report was released to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Valetta, Malta last weekend. It was compiled by the Kaleidoscope Human Rights Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation working to promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in the Asia Pacific region.
Since the last CHOGM in 2013, India has recriminalised male homosexuality and Brunei has partially implemented a strict form of Sharia law. In contrast, Mozambique and Lesotho have decriminalised male homosexuality, but 90 per cent of Commonwealth citizens still live in a jurisdiction where homosexuality is criminalised.
The report relied on the contributions of LGBTI human rights organisations from across the Commonwealth and includes testimonies from LGBTI people in almost every Commonwealth country. Kaleidoscope said they reveal "pervasive and debilitating discrimination and violence".
The report's recommendations include the need for the Commonwealth to commit to include a discussion on equal rights for LGBTI citizens as a substantive agenda item at the next CHOGM, and encouraging Commonwealth member states to facilitate an informed debate about the means to remove all legal and other impediments to the enjoyment of their human rights.
“There have been positive moves across the Commonwealth in the last two years plus a number of setbacks. Some of the developments in Malta over the weekend give us hope that at last the Commonwealth is creaking in to action over the rights of LGBTI citizens," Kaleidoscope president Professor Paula Gerber said.
"But we need to see more progress and a real commitment to change. It is still shocking that LGBTI citizens of Commonwealth nations are at a significantly higher risk of facing criminal prosecution for who they love, than citizens of the rest of the world.”
The Commonwealth People’s Forum last week had sessions examining the challenges facing LGBTI people, the first time it had done so. It concluded with the Malta Declaration calling Commonwealth governments to "make concrete efforts to prevent acts of violence and harassment committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity".