This announcement follows intense lobbying of Mr Rudd by LGBT activists from the global north and the global south.
Rudd’s spokeswoman said:
Australia is a global advocate of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Australia encourages all countries to decriminalise homosexuality by removing all laws imposing criminal penalties for homosexual conduct. Mr Rudd will be raising these matters with Commonwealth foreign ministers at CHOGM.
Australia is encouraging all governments to respond substantively to the EPG recommendations (for decriminalisation).
Mr Rudd is the host of CHOGM and will have significant influence over the Commonwealth summit’s deliberations.
Lobbying the Commonwealth is paying off, said human rights activist Peter Tatchell:
It is great news. Australia did not push for decriminalisation at the last Commonwealth summit, held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009. This announcement is positive progress.
Huge thanks to the many LGBTI groups and individuals from all over the world who lobbied Kevin Rudd and the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma.
I wrote to Kevin Rudd on 5 September, urging him to ensure that LGBTI rights are on the official agenda at the Commonwealth summit. Mr Rudd responded with a commitment to press for gay law reform throughout the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth advisory body, the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), which includes the openly gay retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, has recommended that Commonwealth countries repeal legislation criminalizing homosexuality on the grounds that anti-gay laws are hampering efforts to combat the spread of HIV.
Commonwealth countries comprise 30% of the world’s population but have more than 60% of the world’s people living with HIV.
The EPG report is part of the formal Commonwealth agenda. Its report, ‘Time for Urgent Reform’, has been leaked. It says that:
The Commonwealth could cease to exist unless it takes stronger, more public stands against egregious human rights violations in its member countries.
The leak to Canada’s National Post includes a promise by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to join those raising LGBT rights at the summit.
The EPG report contains a proposal for a new Commissioner for Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights. It has been reported that this post could be taken by the openly gay former Australian High Court judge Michael Kirby.
Meanwhile, Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana, has added his voice to calls for the decriminalization of homosexuality and sex work in order to help reduce HIV rates.
“You have to assist them to protect themselves. I don’t think by arresting them you help them.”
Mogae is the leader of the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation group of African elders, which includes former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda who has also spoken against sodomy laws.
These are the four proposals that LGBT campaigners want to see on the CHOGM agenda and that they want all Commonwealth member states to adopt:
- Decriminalization of homosexuality
- Laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- The enforcement of legislation against threats and violence, to protect LGBTI people from hate crimes
- Consultation and dialogue with LGBTI organizations
These four demands echo proposals previously expressed by a coalition of LGBT campaigners from the global south at meetings of the Commonwealth People’s Forum, an NGO side event to the main CHOGM.
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