The British Commonwealth’s Equal Rights Trust (ERT) has called on the Commonwealth’s Heads of Government to condemn, during their meeting this weekend, the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill and to take urgent action to repeal existing homophobic laws across the Commonwealth.

According to ERT:

Homosexual conduct is currently illegal in 43 of the 53 Commonwealth nations, despite the commitment in the 1971 Commonwealth Declaration of Principles to “foster human equality and dignity everywhere”. This Declaration has effectively been ignored by all but 10 of the member countries.

ERT offered a three-point plan to Commonwealth General Secretary Kamalesh Sharma:

  • establish a Ministerial Action Group to address the issue of laws criminalising homosexual conduct and advise member states of the Commonwealth on the legal implications of retaining such laws;
  • condemn the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was tabled in the Parliament of Uganda in the strongest terms — and consider sanctions which would follow from adoption of the Bill;
  • include a political commitment to tackling homophobic laws in the final communiqu?© of its meeting.

ERT argues that international law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, relying on interpretation by UN human rights bodies and broadly recognized legal principles to support its case.

The ERT statement came after Stephen Lewis, United Nations Secretary-General’ Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, condemned the legislation and warned the Commonwealth not to allow Uganda to use its chairmanship of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to put the entire Commonwealth’s “legitimacy and integrity” at risk.