The Umbrella Organisation

The Umbrella Organisation

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Time for the Commonwealth to act on LGBT rights
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I am proud to announce that I have joined the writing/contributing team of EQView which launched on 1 July 2014.

EQView describes itself as:
"EQView is a fresh LGBTQ perspective with a lotta heart. A queer slant on news, views & reviews, across the arts, entertainment, lifestyle and current affairs."

EQView is here:
http://eqview.com/

For my inaugural feature for EQView, I chose to write about LGBT rights in the Commonwealth. I chose to write about something outside of my usual comfort zone of theatre and film (“the Arts”) because I have become increasingly concerned about recent developments and I feel very let down by the inability of the Commonwealth to take any meaningful action or to stand up for what is right. It is timely because Glasgow will be hosting the Commonwealth Games later this month.

My inaugural feature on why it is time for the Commonwealth to act on LGBT rights is here:
http://eqview.com/2014/07/11/time-commonwealth-act-lgbt-rights/

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:

TIME FOR THE COMMONWEALTH TO ACT ON LGBT RIGHTS

I thought long and hard about my inaugural feature for EQView and I have chosen to go off-piste, outside of my usual comfort zone of theatre and film (“the Arts”), to write about LGBT rights in the Commonwealth. I have become increasingly concerned about recent developments and I feel very let down by the inability of the Commonwealth to take any meaningful action or to stand up for what is right.

I define myself as British. I was born and brought up in England and I have lived in England my whole life. I have Indian heritage, as my parents were both born and brought up in India, and they came to England in the 1960s.

I am part of the Black and South Asian (Commonwealth) diaspora living in England. There is a real connection between British BME individuals and communities and the Commonwealth nations as most British people with South Asian, Caribbean or African heritage have family and relatives “back home” with whom there is frequent and regular contact through phone calls, letters, visits back and forth, and, more recently, social media such as Facebook.

Although I am straight, I have been a lifelong supporter of LGBT rights. I have always been passionate about equality issues in general, and I firmly believe that if we, as BME people, are committed to achieving race equality, then we should be equally passionate about ensuring equal rights for everyone.

I have been increasingly worried and disturbed by the way LGBT people are perceived and treated in many parts of the Commonwealth. 80% of Commonwealth nations criminalize homosexuality – 42 out of the 53 member states. Seven Commonwealth member states stipulate life imprisonment for homosexuality, and two of them (Pakistan and Nigeria) even have the death penalty under Sharia law in some regions.

In Britain, over the past decade, there has been significant progress towards LGBT equality, and last year Parliament passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act granting same-sex couples the right to get married.

But in many African, Caribbean and South Asian Commonwealth nations things have been getting progressively worse for LGBT people with state-sanctioned homophobia, persecution and criminalization. Over the last year, new laws have been passed in many Commonwealth nations making life for LGBT people in those countries very difficult.

Uganda passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act introducing prison sentences for LGBT people in a same-sex relationship (up to a maximum of a life sentence), and prison terms for those deemed to be “promoting” homosexuality, which includes advocating for LGBT rights or helping and assisting LGBT people.

Nigeria passed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act which outlaws public same-sex affection and LGBT organisations, events, and advocacy. Participation in, or support of, LGBT social or campaign groups and events is banned and carries a 10 year jail term. Just kissing or holding hands in public is now a serious crime for same-sex couples in Nigeria.

Even India, which has historically been one of the more liberal and tolerant of the Commonwealth nations, and which has a long tradition of respecting difference and diversity in matters of sexuality and sexual orientation, took a major step backwards last year when it recriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults.

The Commonwealth claims to stand for civil liberties and the Commonwealth Charter clearly states that it is opposed to discrimination on any grounds. But the Commonwealth has remained silent about these human rights violations and failed to deliver on its ambitions. This makes me sad and leaves me bitterly disappointed.

The Commonwealth should aim to be the gold standard on human rights laws and equalities issues. It should be playing a leading role in fighting the persecution and oppression of LGBT people within its member states, working towards the decriminalization of homosexuality across the Commonwealth, and championing equal rights for all.

This month Glasgow hosts the 20th Commonwealth Games, and athletes, officials and spectators from all over the Commonwealth will be visiting Scotland to celebrate sporting achievements and our family of nations, rich in diversity and complexity. Now is the time for the Commonwealth to take a good look at itself and attempt to live up to its own values and deliver true equality for all of its citizens.

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