Sir Elton John and husband David Furnish have lent their backing to young adults from across the Commonwealth who joined forces this week at Cumberland Lodge to call for their governments to recognise and strengthen LGBTQI+ rights and tackle abuses, ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2018, taking place in London this April.

In a letter of support, Sir Elton says: 'I urge you to work with advocates and influencers to engage in new, cross-boundary dialogue to develop greater understanding, compassion and tolerance of an individual’s sexuality'. 

Furnish, who married John in 2014 and serves as Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, added 'Growing up in Canada, being part of the Commonwealth was a source of great pride.  As an institution it has incredible potential to reset the balance in terms of human rights and human dignity. It would also have a huge impact on the HIV epidemic in the Commonwealth.'

Working with global advocates, charity leaders, academics and policy influencers, 36 international postgraduate students – all currently studying at UK universities -  tackled these issues at a round-table conference, ‘Freedom & Sexuality: LGBTQI+ rights in the Commonwealth’, convened by Cumberland Lodge in partnership with the Kaleidoscope Trust, on Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 February 2018.

The conference addressed the continuing human rights abuses that LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex) communities face daily, across the Commonwealth, where more than 90% of its citizens live in jurisdictions that criminalise LGBTI people.

Participants in the conference included: Crispin Blunt MP; Baroness Liz Barker (LGBT Spokesperson, Liberal Democrats); the Reverend Jide Macaulay (Founder & CEO, House of Rainbow CIC); Jonah Chinga (Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya); and Donnya Piggott (Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination).  

Sir Stephen Wall, Chair of Trustees at Cumberland Lodge and Chair of the Kaleidoscope Trust, commented: 'This conference allowed the voices of young people from different countries and backgrounds to be heard and to send a message that the baton is passing to a new generation with a different and more inclusive view of the world'.

Conference statement

A conference statement was produced, which calls on the governments of Commonwealth nations to:

  • Affirm that the rights of LGBTQI+ people are human rights as defined by the United Nations, and uphold these alongside the rights of those facing other forms of discrimination.

  • Commit to decriminalise same-sex sexual activity among consenting adults, and enshrine the rights of LGBTQI+ people in anti-discrimination legislation.

  • Adopt the Yogyakarta Principles plus 10 which affirm binding legal standards with which all states must comply.

A full version of this statement is available here.

Resources

The 'Yogyakarta Principles Plus 10' can be found here.

The Kaleidoscope Trust's report, Speaking Out 2015: The Rights of LGBTI People Across the Commonwealth, is available here.