Kaleidoscope Trust: Commonwealth leaders are ‘turning a blind eye to homophobia’

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A report by the Kaleidoscope Trust has accused Commonwealth leaders of turning a blind eye to widespread human rights abuses of LGBT citizens along with refusing to discuss the issue.

Commonwealth heads of government will meet in the Sri Lankan city of Colombo later this week for a summit – although LGBT campaigners say Sri Lanka is one of the worst offenders. Prime Minister David Cameron will be among the leaders attending the summit despite calls for him to boycott the event.

In a report published today by the Kaleidoscope Trust, LGBT rights campaigners from across the Commonwealth speak out on abuses including murder, ‘corrective rapes’, beatings, arrests and intimidation.

In Sri Lanka activists have been threatened with detention and human rights groups have been told they will be closed down if they continue to campaign for equal rights for LGBT citizens in the run-up to the summit.

Same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in 41 out of 53 Commonwealth states.

The former head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth, Dr Purna Sen, has condemned the Sri Lankan Government for the unacceptable harassment of activists. Dr Sen, who is Chair of the Kaleidoscope Trust, said: “It is wholly unacceptable for the country preparing to host Commonwealth leaders to try to silence the LGBT community and human rights defenders through threats and intimidation.”

In a foreword to the report, Sir Shridath ‘Sonny’ Ramphal, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth calls anti-gay legislation “a relic of Empire that has no place in the modern Commonwealth.”

The report demands that all Commonwealth governments repeal any legislation which criminalises same-sex sexual activity; put in place an immediate moratorium on the enforcement of any existing laws criminalising homosexuality and fully include LGBTI people in development and other programmes on an equal basis with the rest of society.

In October, Gambia announced its decision to leave the Commonwealth just days after its President, Yahya Jammeh, told the United Nations General Assembly that gay people represent a threat to human existence.