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International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2017

17 May 2017
Statement by: Commonwealth Secretary-General The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC

The Commonwealth Charter underscores our common commitment to the values of equality and respect for the protection and promotion of human rights and as a values-based organisation, our Commonwealth attitude must always be one of respect and understanding.

The theme for International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2017 is “Love Makes a Family” and highlights the centrality of the family for inclusive and sustainable development.

To this end, a peaceful, secure and prosperous Commonwealth means that we have to respect the inherent dignity and equality of all our citizens as members of the Commonwealth family. This is in line with our theme for 2017: ‘A Peace-building Commonwealth’, as well as the Secretary General’s current ‘Peace in the Home’ initiative.

Increased violence, discrimination and familial exclusion often leads to decreased productivity, loss of economic output and increased health and police costs, which in turn leads to depressed economic growth and over-burdened justice and governance systems.

For the first time this year we marked IDAHOT with an event for staff of the Commonwealth Secretariat, which aimed at mainstreaming the Charter imperative of equality and non-discrimination. We heard from speakers who shared their own experiences of family on their journey to inclusion.

Today presents an opportunity to take stock of recent positive developments in the Commonwealth. In the past two years we have seen ground-breaking developments in five of our member states that have made policy and legislative changes towards full inclusion. During March, for the very first time, we hosted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who engaged in discussions with Commonwealth High Commissioners and civil society organisations on a number of human rights issues, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Furthermore, we have trained regional human rights parliamentary champions, including on sexual orientation and gender identity. These champions have repeatedly spoken on various platforms on equality and non-discrimination, sharing good parliamentary practice and making a contribution to shaping the global LGBTI dialogue. A notable marker of impact has been that one of our parliamentary champions has established a cross-party parliamentary human rights caucus and has already engaged with human rights defenders on the issues of protection from violence and greater service provision.

We equally acknowledge that we do have a longer journey ahead to make the aspirations of the Commonwealth Charter a reality for all Commonwealth citizens. And so, our work to enhance durable national spaces for dialogue through national institutions, continues with renewed fervour. National human rights commissions, parliaments, faith leaders and traditional leaders are all important national actors who have a role to ensure that the fabric of the family, whatever its colour or shape, is supported and strengthened with love, respect and understanding.

I recall the first thematic report of the independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, titled: “diversity in humanity, humanity in diversity.” I wish to echo those words to encourage reflection on the very rich diversity of the Commonwealth and the challenges we have faced and overcome in the past, which will help us to nurture a deeper humanity for all in future.