Discrimination against LGBTQI+ citizens has been described as ‘a Commonwealth problem’. Currently, same-sex relations are criminalised in 37 of the 72 Commonwealth countries, and more than 90% of Commonwealth citizens live in jurisdiction that criminalise LGBTQI+ people. Convictions often carry a penalty of imprisonment, ranging from three years to a life sentence.
The two-day residential conference, ‘Freedom and Sexuality: LGBTQI+ rights in the Commonwealth’, held at Cumberland Lodge and organised in partnership with the Kaleidoscope Trust, created an open forum where advocates, researchers and international students, from 21 universities, were able to discuss ongoing issues in their home countries in relation to LGBTQI+ rights, and more often than not the denial of these rights. In total, 25 countries were represented, including Nigeria, Kenya, Canada, Singapore, Australia, India and Bangladesh. Sessions explored religious, political and historical perspectives including the legacy of British legislation imposed during the colonial period. Speaker and delegates drew from their personal experiences as well as their expertise in human rights law and other disciplines.
The conference concluded by producing a statement summarising its recommendations. The Kaleidoscope Trust, the UK's leading international LGBTQI+ rights charity, will use the statement as part of its engagement with the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which takes place in London in April.