Giving LGBT Visibility, through National Action, CHOGM and TCEN in 2018

16th May 2018

I will be the first to say that The Commonwealth, as an institution, was perceive as useless, as it operates with political leaders who have had no qualms of jailing, hanging, beating, murdering it own citizens. There is no enforcement mechanism and no redress mechanism. The only moments of exception was when South Africa had to withdraw from the Commonwealth in the 1960's while Pakistan was suspended in 2007 along with Fiji in 2009. As a system its, does not consistently follow its own principles of Democracy, Good Governance, Human Rights, Rule of Law, Tolerance, Respect and Understanding among others. Proof of this, points out that leaders in Africa have made many homophobic remarks like the President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, " even cows disapprove" of homosexuality in 2017 following a crackdown on gay men in his country while in 2014, former Gambian, President Yahya Jammeh said "We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” he said in a speech made to mark the country’s 49th anniversary of independence from Britain. Even South Africa is not immune in a lapse in leadership as President Zuma once called same-sex marriage, "a disgrace to the nation, and to God". While in the Caribbean leaders have their own brand of homophobia. In Belize the former Minister, Boot Martinez said, in 2011 at an anti-right rally, " “My position is that God never placed anything on me for me to look at a man and jump on a man. I’ll be clear on it … How would you decriminalize that, I am sorry, but that is law. Not only is the law made by man that is a law made from the Bible. Why do you think God made a man and a woman, man has what woman wants, and woman has what man wants, it’s as simple as that. I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep that law.” In Jamaica, former Prime Minister Golding spoke of " not in my cabinet!" when asked about gay men serving senior position in his cabinet. While T.C.E.N was a dirty little secret at the beginning, is clear that with its accreditation, as the only LGBT Network in the Commonwealth,  the doors are slowly being unhinged for better dialogue with political leaders whether its at the Foreign Ministers Roundtable, asking questions between the People, Business and Youth Forums, conducting sessions with T.C.E.N members or getting news coverage we have certainly help to shift the tone of visibility at the moment.

But what about the substance of the Network.When it has access to rooms of power, it raises visibility to advance the policy norming efforts. The work is complemented by experience at the national level. We know that Human Dignity Trust is a player in 15 commonwealth countries supporting litigation work and regionally and U-RAP work in the Caribbean remains of strategic importance to Belize. The decriminalization work in Belize allowed information exchange about advocacy lessons to inform work in Trinidad and Tobago on decriminalization along  with members of E.C.A.D.E in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. We know that South Africa is playing their part and in Pakistan litigation and political work led to the passage of a Gender Recognition Law. We know in Kenya there have been constitutional challenges among other countries in Africa. One can argue that national work, is now feeding the effort to get the commonwealth to become more inclusive of its citizens in law and development planning. Despite many state criminalizing adult intimacy, no state constitution has ever said that fundamental rights are for straight people only or have used the word, except, when referring to Fundamental rights for LGBT citizens in the commonwealth.  When Climate change is spoken of, leaders speaks to citizens, when economic concerns are addressed leaders speak to citizens. Now, the work is about giving life and values around protection and security to LGBT citizens if the Commonwealth.  

For Belize C.H.O.G.M 2018, continues to add value to The United Belize Advocacy Movement work as a broader advocacy framework that uses , as leverage, a transnational strategy to facilitate information exchange that speak to a long-term outcome of legislative reform that is inclusive of LGBT Belizeans. The United Belize Advocacy Movement saw for the first time a unplanned delegation of individuals from Belize attending sessions that included a session on legal reform that discussed Belize's hybrid strategy of litigation and parliamentary approval of the criminal code amendments. in fact, Belize set the model for the rest of the Commonwealth in how the value of good governance can facilitate arbitration, between two social groups successfully without the sky falling. In addition, we saw Belize's Mayor of Belmopan talk about local government accountability, Belize documented as a best practice in a UK sponsored toolkit on LGBT engagement work,our House Speaker meeting the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity for the first time at Canada House, Senator Woods working the Open for Business Event at Parliament, along with her colleagues from the Parliamentarians for Global Action. At the Canada house meeting the House Speaker, who double as the Chair for the National AIDS Commission for Belize spoke of her efforts to advance PANCAP model Anti-discrimination legislation. At the Foreign Ministers Roundtable with Civil Society and I mentioned in the room," no commonwealth wealth constitution speaks to fundamental rights  that it is only for straight people, it does not say except, it speaks to citizens." I added, no "Commonwealth state ever spoke about climate change as affecting straight people, they often speak to citizenry." I took great care to transition into the point and said, "which brings me to my point. Great care has been given to ensure that Commonwealth Leaders have security. Could that same care in security be extended to LGBT Commonwealth  Citizens." Boris Johnson, The UK Foreign Secretary answered,"yes!as long as it does not cause harm." But the External Minister for Saint Lucia, Sarah Beaburn Flood could not help herself. Separately, ensured that she had an intervention which spoke to protecting families that are affected by economic and social conditions. Code, for ensuring exclusion of LGBT protections in national law and in any communique. Slightly after, the Canadian representative spoke up and said, "Canada was stronger when it was inclusive and supported diversity and made a reference to the lost of productivity that in business." The rest was a private conversation  that included agreeing that families should be protected," in all its forms" and a small discussion on self-care. what was fascinating was to see our CEO for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the next table and our Speaker of the House at the corner of the room. What is clear, in such room, is that substantive decisions are not made at a round table, they are made in small rooms with technical people. We found out much later that the Communique issued said, " Head Affirmed their unwavering commitment to the Commonwealth fundamental Political values, reflected in the Commonwealth Charter and"emphasized that the full social ,economic and political participation of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race,ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status, is essential for democracy and sustainable development to thrive." TCEN, for now, have done their job. What next, time will tell and show us the way forward in giving life to language.

For Belize the issue is how do we transform language into action at home. It means introducing legal technical experts to the Chair of the National AIDS Commission, partnering with Parliamentarians for Global Action to engage parliamentarians in Belize and opening the conversation among both national parties, setting the psychological and physical structure in place to make things happen like an advocacy and civil rights organization like The United Belize Advocacy Movement. It means sharing our knowledge and best practices with other marginalized groups, conducting research and focusing on socio-economic and legal reform as outcomes. Our work is for the long-haul and its not for the faint of heart. as it means, pissing people off as needed, not waiting for support, risking everything to do the right thing.Along they way, testing our humanity along with our resolve to succeed. the work brings no popularity in society for its about one's conscience. Many will desire, but few will chose such a journey. Welcome to the reality of human rights and knowing the level of expendability and collateral damage in the lost of human lives that occurs as we try to change a process which seeks to maintain the status quo of systemic marginalization which pushes from all corners. The struggle continues!

South Africa Withdraws from Commonwealth
Pakistan Suspension
Fiji suspension

South Africa


Not in My Cabinet


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