New Commonwealth secretary-general pledges to advocate LGBT rights
The new secretary-general of the 53-nation Commonwealth Secretariat Baroness Scotland has pledged to work with member countries to decriminalise homosexuality.
Scotland, who was appointed during the 24th biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta last weekend, she said that the Commonwealth can find a way to have homosexuality decriminalised if it works together.
Currently, consensual homosexual activity is legal in just 13 of the 53 Commonwealth countries.
“Human rights and development go hand in hand,” she said. “We will walk with and work with our partners to help everyone appreciate human dignity.”
She also said that decriminalising homosexuality “is something that will depend on consensus,” adding that: “We do not have the right or opportunity to force states, but we can start a really good conversation to work with them so they understand the economic issues in relations to human rights and make the change,” according to the Independent newspaper.
“The one thing I have to do is to build consensus and trust and I can hope it will [be on the next CHOGM agenda],” she said.
Scotland, who will be the first woman to ever fill the position, also told the conference that she would prioritise gender equality and combat domestic violence.
She also singled out climate change as an “existential threat” to small island states and described this month’s Paris Climate Conference (COP21) as an opportunity for the Commonwealth to really make its mark.
Scotland, who received her life peerage in 1997, was Parliamentary Secretary in the Lord Chancellor’s Department from 2001 to 2003, Minister for Criminal Justice and Offender Management from 2003 to 2007, Minister for crime reduction at the Home Office in 2007, and Attorney General from 2007 to 2010 under the previous Labour government.
She will take up her post on 1 April next year, replacing Kamalesh Sharma of India, whose eight-year tenure comes to an end in March next year.