‘LGBTI Human Rights in the Commonwealth’ conference was held in Sir Charles Wilson Building at the University of Glasgow on Nelson Mandela International Day, Friday 18th July 2014, to coincide with the opening of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and to mark the challenging environment faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people in Commonwealth states. The conference was free to attend, with organisation led by Scotland’s Equality Network with partners Glasgow Human Rights Network, Kaleidoscope Trust and Pride Glasgow. It drew speakers from across the Commonwealth, and involved a range of activists, policy-makers and organisations in discussion of how to improve the realisation of human rights for LGBTI people in Commonwealth states, and the role of Commonwealth institutions themselves. A Statement drafted by the conference steering group was discussed and edited in a workshop and in the final plenary session, and approved overwhelmingly by a vote.
Download the full LGBTI Human Rights in the Commonwealth Conference Statement.
Dr. Matthew Waites of Glasgow Human Rights Network presented the Statement to the conference with Alistair Stewart of Kaleidoscope in the final plenary, where it received overwhelming endorsement with only one vote against. He comments:
"This Statement passed on Nelson Mandela International Day represents a collaboration of the conference’s international steering group members and speakers with UK activists. It will now be taken forward, particularly by Kaleidoscope Trust, to consult with and seek support from LGBTI organisations in all Commonwealth states. What distinguishes this Statement is its explicitly anti-colonial and intersectional character, which I emphasised a need for in the initial design and conference discussions. It begins from recognition of British colonialism’s role in criminalisation, with the Call for Action starting with a call for repeal of British colonial laws against same-sex sexual behaviour. The second point in the Call to Action then affirms a multi-dimensional approach to human rights and inequalities, explicitly expressing a need to address discrimination related to ‘racism and religion’. This anti-colonial and multi-dimensional approach is the basis on which the statement was negotiated and agreed, including in the final plenary at the conference. This approach can help avoid the pitfalls of speaking moral universalisms from a position of privilege in the UK; I believe it is both appropriate in substance and also strategically crucial in building North/South transnational coalitions for change. While representations of the Statement may vary among people now invoking it, I hope all will honour this philosophy and strategy. This was the basis for agreement among such a wide spectrum of activists and organisations at the conference, ranging from African activists like Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Bisi Alimi from Nigeria and Monica Tabengwa of Human Rights Watch from Botswana to British activists including Kaleidoscope, Equality Network, Peter Tatchell and Human Dignity Trust."
Principal Anton Muscatelli, who attended, commented:
‘Equality and respect for diversity is a core driver for the University of Glasgow. I'm delighted of the role which my colleagues in the University and the Human Rights Network have played in organising a highly successful LGBTI Human Rights in the Commonwealth Conference. I fully endorse the statement which the Conference has adopted.’
The conference steering group included: Scott Cuthbertson (Equality Network), Dr. Matthew Waites (Glasgow Human Rights Network), Alistair Stewart (Kaleidoscope Trust), Bisi Alimi (Nigeria), Dr. Frank Mugisha (Sexual Minorities Uganda), Fionnuala Murphy (International HIV/AIDS Alliance), Sam Rankin (Equality Network), Joshua McCormick (LGBT Youth Scotland/Member of Scottish Youth Parliament).
Matthew Waites has written an article in The Conversation expanding his analysis of the conference, Statement and activist strategies, available online: 'The Commonwealth can play a role in the worldwide struggle for LGBTI human rights' (23 July 2014).
You can also download the conference brochure.
The primary funder for the event was the Equality Network. The University of Glasgow also contributed substantially to funding: the University covered half of the venue fee including janitorial staff costs; the College of Social Sciences deployed internationalisation funds to film the event; Communications produced the conference films and gave support with media coverage; Glasgow Human Rights Network contributed to catering costs; the School of Social and Political Sciences contributed to international flight costs for speakers; and the Sociology subject area contributed to catering costs. The conference organisers gratefully acknowledge this support from all levels of the University.
Left to right in main photo: Dr Matthew Waites (Senior Lecturer in Sociology/Glasgow Human Rights Network, University of Glasgow, UK), Dr. Purna Sen (Chair, Kaleidoscope Trust, UK/former Head of Human Rights, Commonwealth Secretariat), Peter Tatchell (Peter Tatchell Foundation, UK), Fiona Hyslop MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Scottish Government, UK), Mayur Suresh (legal representative of Voices Against 377, India), Pallav Patankar (Director, Humsafar Trust, India), Monica Tabengwa (Human Rights Watch, Botswana), Dr. Frank Mugisha (Executive Director, Sexual Minorities Uganda; Nobel Peace Prize nominee 2014), Bisi Alimi (LGBT/HIV activist, Nigeria/Lecturer, Freie Universität Berlin), Shanon Shah (Kings College London/Malaysia), Scott Cuthbertson (Equality Network, Scotland, UK), Silvan Agius (Policy Coordinator - Human Rights, Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, Malta), Morgan Carpenter (President, Organisation Intersex International, Australia), Fionnuala Murphy (Campaigns Manager, International HIV/AIDS Alliance), Alistair Stewart (Assistant Director, Kaleidoscope Trust, UK), Principal Anton Muscatelli (University of Glasgow, UK), Joshua McCormick (LGBT Youth Scotland/Member of Scottish Youth Parliament, UK)