LONDON, England, Saturday June 24, 2017 – The lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI) community has been given a voice in, and increased access to, Commonwealth, in a historic decision by the 52-member body.
The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN), a network of 38 civil society organizations in 39 countries, including in the Caribbean, has become the first LGBTI organization to be officially accredited by the Commonwealth. The decision was made during the recent Board of Governors Meeting at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
Accreditation as a Commonwealth organization means that TCEN activists will benefit from increased access to, participation in and information about Commonwealth matters.
“It also sends a strong signal that the voices and needs of LGBTI people are legitimate and LGBTI activists have a vital role in civil society,” the network said in a statement.
TCEN challenges inequality and end discrimination against LGBTI people in the Commonwealth. Currently, 36 Commonwealth countries continue to criminalize consensual same-sex acts. And Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, chair of TCEN, said the accreditation is a “great victory”.
“I am certain TCEN can make great inroads into gaining LGBTI rights in the Commonwealth. I look forward to the day when all countries within the Commonwealth adhere to the principles of human rights and equality enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter, safeguarding LGBTI rights and upholding freedom and equality for all,” she said.
The accreditation was also welcomed by Caleb Orozco, executive director of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), whose successful lawsuit ended in Belize’s anti-homosexuality being law struck down last year.
“Finally, Commonwealth governments have acknowledged that their LGBTI citizens’ dignity and rights are a part of democratic principles that should be at the policy table. As a citizen of the Commonwealth, it gives me hope that states will not leave totally the defence of rights to be the burden, alone, of individuals,” he said.
In 2015, a group of TCEN members participated in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, where a Barbadian activist became the first person to address Commonwealth foreign ministers on the lived reality of its LGBTI citizens.
TCEN said such activism is resulting in the emergence of progressive policy. It said it would harness the momentum accreditation gives to continue the struggle for the dignity, equality and basic freedoms of all LGBTI people throughout the Commonwealth, particularly during next year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit to be hosted by the United Kingdom in April.