Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The Commonwealth Charter, to which we, dozens of Commonwealth organisations and the 54 Commonwealth nations commit to upholding, notes that human rights “are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and cannot be implemented selectively.” Much of the work of The Commonwealth Equality Network is focused on making these statements true for LGBTI+ people.
In many countries across the Commonwealth, the rights ostensibly enshrined to LGBTI+ people at birth are violated, time and again, owing to a legacy of harm resulting from discriminatory laws made many years ago, and upheld by those who do not believe warrant the same protections as other citizens.
As countries and peoples with shared histories, The Commonwealth Equality Network is evidence that our collective movements for LGBTI+ freedom, safety and equality transcend borders, nationality and geography. By working collaboratively at local, regional and international levels, our network stands in defiance of the violent and quotidian infringement of the human rights of LGBTI+ people across the Commonwealth.
Equality is not only morally right, but also helps economies, nations and societies to flourish. The Commonwealth Charter itself acknowledges that this – and the respect for the protection and promotion of rights – are the “foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies”. We commend TCEN’s member organisations for their unwavering commitment to defending the human rights of LGBTI+ people and for their comprehensive and intersectional organising and advocacy. Great work has resulted in much progress, but LGBTI+ organisations and those who lead them cannot be left to fight by themselves for the rights LGBTI+ people deserve. More people, voices and advocacy are needed to positively impact the various movements for LGBTI+ equality across the Commonwealth.
On this Human Rights Day, we would like to remind Commonwealth governments that LGBTI+ human rights are indivisible from any other, and would like to thank our funders for their sustained investment in our work to empower LGBTI+ human rights defenders to advocate sustainably for their communities to effect meaningful and lasting change.
The human rights of LGBTI+ people, and other multiply-marginalised communities, are obviously not guaranteed and must be fought for. Today, and every other day, we will do our part to ensure the aspirations and entitlements in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Commonwealth Charter become a reality. The lives of LGBTI+ people absolutely depend on it.
In solidarity with LGBTI+ people across the Commonwealth and around the world.
About The Commonwealth Equality Network
Established in 2013, The Commonwealth Equality Network – or TCEN – is a network of organisations challenging inequality based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics. The Network was set up to give a global voice to LGBTI+ communities across the Commonwealth and to support joint advocacy to provide an answer to the colonial legacy of homophobia – a Commonwealth solution to a Commonwealth problem.
In 2017, The Commonwealth Equality Network became the first LGBTI-focused organisation to be accredited by The Commonwealth, a testament to the Network’s profound and important work.