Monthly Archives: October 2011

In Good Conscience?

My interest was piqued yesterday by a Twitter exchange between bioethicist Leslie Cannold and sceptic, Ken Dally (aka Cowcakes).

Leslie Cannold:  Vic Doctors who will let u or a woman u love die rather than follow law & offer life-saving abortion

Cowcakes: @LeslieCannold: So many declarations of not being religious it makes one think they protest too much.

The website they refer to is  Liberty of Conscience in Medicine – A Declaration; effectively a petition asserting the right of doctors to refuse to offer certain treatments (e.g. abortion, euthanasia)  even if they are legal.

Now, I’m happy to concede there are compelling arguments both for and against this proposition (do you really want a rabidly anti-abortion doctor performing your abortion?), but this is not the issue that particularly concerns me about the Liberty of Conscience in Medicine declaration.

Rather, it is the matter alluded to in Ken Dally’s tweet:

“So many declarations of not being religious it makes one think they protest too much.” 

I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on the anti-euthanasia lobby lately and I’ve been surprised to find that many organisations that declare themselves to be ‘secular’ or ‘non religious’ are clearly ‘playing possum’.  It seems to me a rather ‘un-Christian’ thing to do, really.

Take the Discovery Institute, for example. Although it often describes itself as a secular organization, its activities, sponsors and target audience are explicitly Christian. Americans United for Separation of Church and State believes, “the group’s real purpose is to undercut church-state separation and turn public schools into religious indoctrination centers.”

The judge in the 2005 “Dover Trial”, agreed, noting that a close examination of the Discovery Institute’s infamous “Wedge Document” revealed the Institute’s religious (as opposed to scientific) goals.

So, I wondered, could the Liberty of Conscience declaration be another of these religious ‘sleeper’ organisations?  I decided to find out.

The FAQ section of the Liberty in Conscience website specifically states that the declaration is not connected with religion or religious beliefs:

There is no religious or faith component to the declaration of conscience in medicine.

The ‘sponsoring organisation’ ,  Medicine with Morality  is “also not religious”.

So who is behind this secular push for doctors to be able to refuse those treatments which are so often the concern of the religiously motivated?  The FAQ’s provide the answer:

Lachlan Dunjey, a GP in Perth Western Australia since 1968, known to be passionate about such things – passionate about medicine, passionate about the future of medicine and wanting to protect the “traditional” doctor/patient relationship from the things that are threatening it.”

Strangely, it doesn’t mention that Lachlan Dunjey was Western Australia’s Christian Democratic Party candidate for the senate in 2004, along with co-signatory Dr Norman Gage.   At a safe distance from his ‘secular’ websites, Dunjey describes himself as ‘a church musician of 40+ years, as a doctor, and as a church elder’ and signs off as: Lachlan Dunjey,  Morley Baptist Church, West Australia. In fact, Dr Dunjey is not just an ordinary Baptist church-goer, he is a former president of the Baptist Churches of Western Australia.  But, of course, in his capacity as an anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia campaigner, he is entirely non-religious!

My suspicions aroused, I wondered whether, as implied in the FAQs,  the doctors who signed off on Dunjey’s ‘secular’ declaration were similarly ‘non-religious’.  With a few hours to spare I decided to do some judicious googling of the signatories.

It didn’t take long to find that signatory, Dr Michael Shanahan has served as both president and secretary of the Catholic Doctors Association of Western Australia. Similarly, Dr Terrence Kent is a former president of the Catholic Medical Guild of St Luke and Dr Elvis Seman appears to be a member.

So what’s this Guild of St Luke all about?  Dr Lucia Migliore explains:

“As Catholic doctors, we should be foremost inviting Christ into our work, which completely changes the nature of what you are doing.”  

No doubt.

Another signatory, Dr Jovina Graham, was involved in planning iWitness, a religious retreat designed to ‘recapture the spirit’ of Catholic World Youth Day. The focus of iWitness was “on enriching the participants’ spiritual lives through a deepened relationship with Our Lord.”

As I kept researching the Catholic connections just kept on coming.  Signatory, Dr Mary Walsh, is married to Catholic “knight” and bio-ethicist, Nicholas Tonti Fillipini. Dr Phillip Elias is assistant dean at the Opus Dei affiliated Warrane College at the University of New South Wales, while Dr Albert Matti is involved with the Melkite Catholic Eparchy in South Australia.

Liberty of Conscience supporter, Dr Alan Donoghue lays out his beliefs in The Dominion Post , intoning that the Catholic Church condones neither sex before marriage, nor divorce.  And, of course, you must raise your children as Catholics!

Dr Graeme Cumming, who is oft seen commenting on Bill Muehlenberg’s blog, was a Family First candidate for the Queensland seat of Fisher in the 2007 federal election.

“Christians”, says Dr Cumming, “do have and must take up the responsibility (not the “right”) to proclaim God’s law”.  Yes, Dr Cumming, but it would be nice if you’d specify when you’re speaking from a religious, rather than a scientific perspective.

Dr Lucas (Luke) McLindon also seems to be a Muehlenberg fan, pointing out in one comment that, “As a committed Catholic, at the end of the day, my loyalties must lie with Scripture first and foremost …”  I’m sorry, Dr McLindon, but as a patient I’d rather hope your loyalty was first and foremost to me.

But, if the Liberty of Conscience declaration isn’t quite as ‘secular’ as the FAQs suggest, it is certainly ecumenical.  Dr Thalia Shuttleworth is a facilitator at the Sydney Life Church and, apparently, participates in ‘miracle’ healing sessions.(I wonder if that’s covered by Medicare?)

Dr Robert Pollnitz is the chairman of the Lutheran Church of Australia Commission on Social & Bioethcial Questions – not too sure how he would feel about ‘miracles and wonders’.

Dr Rosemary Wong, says her mission as an executive member of the Church of Christ’s Counsel@CrossCulture  “is to bring Christ’s healing to the wounded in our families and communities, so that they may become the persons God has created them to be”.  Pity if you really just wanted a few stitches.

Dr Graham Toohill, an Anglican from Gippsland, is a ‘vocational deacon’, apparently ‘chosen by God’ for a lifetime of service. Dr Toohill “offers time each week to the parish in pastoral care and outreach.”

Dr Robert Claxton is a Sydney Anglican who worked as a medical missionary in Uganda.  He is a board member of African Enterprise a Christian Mission ministry committed to evangelising the cities of Africa (apparently whether they like it or not).

Another signatory with missionary credentials is Dr Richard Shawyer  a ‘church planter’ who served as a Bible teaching missionary in Senegal with Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ. Similarly committed to mission work is Dr Rebecca Zachariah who worked with Lutheran Aid to Medicine in Bangladesh.

As my eyes grew dim and the night grew cold, I read that signatory, Dr Jeremy Beckett, is “avidly involved in student ministry with Christian medical and dental students in Perth” and, like Dr Margaret Payne , he works with the Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship of Australia. Jeremy’s speciality is the “interface between Christian faith and clinical practice”. His aim; to minister the love of Christ to broken people. Ah yes, the broken – so delightfully vulnerable.

Dr Beckett probably knows Dr Sally Tsang. Also a member of the CMDFA, Dr Tsang runs Hospital Link which helps to “connect you to fellow believers for refreshing fellowship and prayer right where the mission field (and stress) is!”  I wonder how many patients at Dr Tsang’s hospital realise they’ve been admitted to a ‘mission field’?

Another CMDFA signatory is Dr Natasha Yates. In her student days, Dr Yates acted as the medical student bible study leader at ANU.

And where was declaration signatory, Dr Tyler Schofield on Sunday, 9 October 2011? I found him asking the congregation of the Alice Springs Baptist Church to turn to their Bibles for a reading from Revelations.  Perhaps he should confer with Dr Nell Muirden who’s been involved writing Bible Studies for the Assembly of Confessing Congregations – a group of Uniting Church dissenters. Or maybe a chat with Dr Andrew Bradbeer who I found busily memorising the first chapter of the Book of Genesis.

Dr Bradbeer might find he has a lot in common with Dr Mathew Piercy who has written for Creation Ministries on the subject  “Life is a gift from God”.  Isn’t this turning out to be a lovely little coterie of like-minded doctors?

And, as the night turned to morning, and my googling fingers continued their work, more and more came to light. Dr Gabriel James aims to “serve God” by facilitating the 40 Days for Life vigil at Westmead Hospital – all welcome providing they “conduct themselves in a Christ-like manner”.

If that all sounds too ‘kumbaya’ for you, try signatory Dr Arthur Hartwig for a little ‘old school’ religion. In the fundamentalist Christian Saltshakers magazine, Dr Hartwig complains that “Sin has been sanitised, euphemised, relativised, trivialised, corporatised, minimised, even decriminalised.”  Ah, bring back those good old days when we stoned homosexuals, eh, Dr Hartwig?

Dr. Theresa Ong has a Grad Dip in Christian Counselling. Dr Nathan Grills has written about the ‘faith effect’ in treating HIV/AIDs and ….   well, I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

In all I found nearly 70 of the doctors who signed the Liberty of Conscience declaration had clear links to Christian organisations.  Of course, not everyone has their religious credentials plastered on the internet for all to see – I was never going to ‘unmask’ everyone.  But, even though it might be argued I didn’t find Christian credentials for nearly half the signatories, I challenge those who have no religious affiliation or belief to step forward and declare themselves.  I don’t think I’ll be deafened by the response!

Now, I’m not a Christian. I’m avowedly and publicly an atheist. But, I have a very strong ethical code and an incredible aversion to lying and deception.  If an organisation tells me they’re ‘not religious’ I expect when I look at its members I will find a pretty good sprinkling of them who are ‘not religious’.  I would also expect that religious dogma is not the driving force and influence underpinning the mission (pun intended) of the group in question.

I may not agree with them, but I have no objection to Christians stating their arguments in the public square.  I do object, however, when their religious bias is not declared.  No politician is going to spend the hours I spent last night googling the credentials of these doctors on a site which explicitly states it has ‘no religious or faith component’. And politicians should know whether the views being put to them are coloured by a hidden religious agenda.

The water of the Liberty of Conscience in Medicine declaration is so muddied with religious belief you could walk on it. And, it seems, there is such an intermingling of these avowedly Christian and avowedly secular ‘pro-life’ and lobbying organisations they even get muddled themselves!  Take this telling exchange from the Review of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 [document file]:

Dr Chris FRENCH — Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to address you regarding our concerns. We have Doctors in Conscience here but the actual proposal was from the Catholic Doctors Association of Victoria, so I will speak on behalf of Catholic Doctors Association of Victoria in this submission. That was Eamonn’s original proposal.

… The Catholic Doctors Association of Victoria gives its total and complete support for the measures to strengthen and clarify human rights. This is a major purpose of this association, linked as it is with a long tradition of preferential care for the disadvantaged of Catholic‑inspired organisations. The association and I personally give full and total support to the sentiments expressed in the preamble of the charter.

The CHAIR — Dr French, I do not mean to interrupt you but the committee was of the understanding that you were representing Doctors in Conscience.

Dr FRENCH — Yes, I must say it did occur to me as I was walking in the front door that the address to Eamonn was Doctors in Conscience. I had understood that this was the Catholic Doctors Association of Victoria. Do you have that in front of you?

The CHAIR — The submission we have is from Dr Eamonn Mathieson.

Ms CAMPBELL — Who is speaking to Eamonn Mathieson’s submission?

Dr FRENCH — I was going to speak to Eamonn’s submission. May I to see your copy?

Ms CAMPBELL — Because Doctors in Conscience is definitely not a Catholic organisation.

Dr FRENCH — Yes, indeed. That’s fine — —

Ms CAMPBELL — It has Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and non‑religious people involved in it, and that was who we invited.

Dr FRENCH— Okay. In that case — —

Ms CAMPBELL — So we need someone who can speak on Doctors in Conscience.

Dr FRENCH — I can briefly speak on behalf of them. I am a member of that group and I have been working to this particular document so I am prepared. I can speak on behalf of it.

Ms CAMPBELL — But you are also a member of Catholic doctors of Victoria?

Dr FRENCH — Yes, I am, as it happens. So I can speak on behalf of Doctors in Conscience. I am a member of both organisations and I have actually prepared my proposal based on this document that has been given to you.

The CHAIR — On the submission of Doctors in Conscience?

Dr FRENCH — Yes.

The CHAIR — Okay. And the opening remarks you were making are consistent with the submission of Doctors in Conscience?

Dr FRENCH — Yes.

Oh dear!  It’s so hard when you simply can’t remember whether to wear your Catholic camauro or your secular slouch hat when fronting up to these inquiries!

If Christians want to have their voices respected in the public square it’s time to stop these ridiculous games of religious hide ‘n seek.  If your views are based on your religious convictions, at least have the honesty and courage to say so.  If you can support your religious convictions with reasonable secular argument based on evidence and good science, by all means do so.  But, for Christ’s sake (literally) have the decency to make it clear that even if every bit of evidence supported the opposite view, you would still oppose the proposition purely on religious grounds.  After all, you wouldn’t want us to think that Christians cynically conceal their dogmatic beliefs in secular clothing and try to pass them off as ‘science’.  That wouldn’t be acting in good conscience at all, would it?

Chrys Stevenson

Euthanasia, Urban Legends & Common Gossip

One of the highlights of Monday nights is watching ABC’s Q and A panel show ‘with my friends’. ‘With’ of course, is a relative term. They’re not ‘with’ me in the living room – but tweeting along on Twitter or commenting on the proceedings on Facebook.

On Monday, 19 September, an elderly man in the Q and A audience raised the subject of euthanasia. What followed was an extraordinary recital of urban legends, conjecture, misinformation and common gossip about what would happen (and what, allegedly, has happened) when voluntary euthanasia (VE) is legalised.

After the show, my friend Dr David Leaf contacted me on Facebook.  As a highly experienced, primary care doctor who deals with life and death issues every day, and as a board member of Dying with Dignity NSW, David was furious.  Frankly, I was rather ‘hot under the collar’ myself.  These allegations had been aired and not one person had refuted them.  They were now floating out there in television land as ‘facts about voluntary euthanasia’; ‘facts’ we both knew were patently false.

The conversation quickly turned to what should ‘we’ do about it?

(That’s what I love about my friends. They’re not the sort who say ‘someone should do something about that’, they’re the sort who say, ‘what can we do about it?’)

So, David and I decided to write an article correcting the claims made about VE on Q and A.  Generously, Scott Stephens from the ABC’s  Religion and Ethics portal agreed to publish it.

It’s been published tonight and David and I, now all fired up and excited about our new writing partnership, are already planning our next article.

Here’s an extract from “Activist ‘dead wrong’ on euthanasia”:

“In a recent episode of ABC’s Q and A, disability rights activist, John Moxon, paints a frightening picture of societies in which voluntary euthanasia (VE) is legal.

Speaking from the audience, Moxon, a quadriplegic, warns that the VE legislation currently before the South Australian parliament:

“… will enable a doctor to kill somebody, on the judgement of the doctor alone, that the person’s life is not worth living.”

After the show, Moxon’s anti-euthanasia group, ProLiving, posted the following comment on their website:

“ProLiving supporter John Moxon gave a good account of a disability perspective on the issue of euthanasia in the ABC program Q & A on 19th September.”

This is alarming. If the ‘disability perspective’ on VE is based on the kind of information disseminated by Mr Moxon on Q and A, people with disabilities are being grossly misinformed. ”  [Read more]

Chrys Stevenson

Allan takes aim at same-sex marriage – but he’s shooting blanks

A blogger called Don Allan has decided to ‘take aim’ at same-sex marriage.  I could have posted a comment on his blog, but this is likely to be long and I doubt he’d publish it anyway.

I thought it would be informative if Allan’s objections to same-sex marriage were reframed as a (circa 1960s) argument against inter-racial marriage.  Let’s see how his argument stacks up in this context.

To clarify, I have used Allan’s anti same-sex marriage argument, but replaced ‘homophobic’ with ‘racist’, ‘same sex’ with ‘inter-racial’ etc.  To be fair to Allan, who was arguing against same-sex marriage – not mixed race marriage – I have  indicated my changes to his text in red:

“Without knowing anything about me some people call me racist because I oppose inter-racial marriage. … I am blind to people’s colour, ethnicity, and sexual make up. So as the name callers now have this information I invite them to create a new name for me.

But ….  before they start creating a new name, let [me] advise them that I am agnostic and my opposition to inter-racial  marriage is based on historical evidence that, even in pre Judeo Christian societies, marriages were seen as special contracts between people of the same race, that age and circumstance permitting, could create racially pure children. Because of their importance, society called them marriage contracts, a title still observed, even in the world’s least sophisticated societies. And so racially pure children are born.

However, children’ s real racial make up [does not become an issue] until later when sexual attraction[comes into play]. The result: humanity becomes a complicated mix of races. This mixture of races often causes complications in society for the individuals concerned and their families.

One such complication is that some, but not all, people of colour, claim they are being denied their human rights because American law says people of different races cannot marry.

I can only say I have never thought of “Marriage” as a human right although it has become a “rite.” Marriage for me has always been a contract that millenniums ago, came to be recognised as the title created by society for people of the same race joined in unions that would be responsible for racial regeneration.

Speaking as an individual, I believe all human beings are equal, but different – and not just racially. But believing all people are equal canot hide either the differences or the scientific fact that no laws can ever make non–whites genetically the same as white people. By the same token, it was society that created the title marriage, not a God of religion.

Sadly at times, the difference between the different races leads to discrimination that must be eradicated for the benefit of society.  To do this I believe that education programmes that help teach people to be blind to the colour, ethnicity and sexual make up, should start as early in childhood as possible.

And also as a means of reducing discrimination, inter-racial couples wishing to contract with each other should rejoice and celebrate their difference with couples of the same race, rather than both groups engage in hostilities that are anything but a tribute to humanity …

[I have omitted the last couple of paragraphs because I could make no sense of them but you can read them here.]

I have used the following quote before, but it bears repeating when we get this kind of ‘I am not a racist’/ ‘I am not homophobic BUT …’ argument.  It, too, comes from the 1960s when African Americans were fighting for civil rights in the same way homosexuals are fighting for equality today.  Consider this cloying statement signed by eighty ministers from Arkanas explaining  the Church’s opposition to integration:

“This statement is not made with any enmity or hatred in our hearts for the Negro race. We have an abiding love for all people . . . [But] [w]e believe that the best interests of all races are served by segregation …We resent the implication by certain liberal ministers that it is un-Christian to oppose integration. We believe that integration is contrary to the will of God … is based on a false theory of the ‘universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.’ We believe that integration is not only un-Christian, but that it violates all sound sociological principles and is not supported by Scripture or by biological facts.”

Does anyone truly believe, despite their earnest protestations to the contrary, those ministers were not hateful, narrow-minded, racist bigots??  Why, then, should we believe anything better of those who use exactly the same kinds of arguments to oppose same-sex marriage?

Allan’s argument simply makes no sense.  There are many traditional practices that have changed over time as we have become better, more inclusive societies.  There is no need for tradition to tie us to unjust laws once we have realised they do not serve the greater good or unnecessarily harm minorities.

Similarly, marriage has never been confined only to those who can have children – so it is disingenous to argue that homosexuals should not be able to marry because they cannot reproduce.  Does Allan also suggest that someone who is infertile should only be allowed a ‘civil union’ and not a marriage?

Finally, Allan’s insistence that he is ‘blind’ to people’s colour, ethnicity or sexual ‘make up’ rings hollow when he uses the old segregationist canard, ‘equal but different’.  Remember, that and ‘tradition’ are the same arguments the Catholic church uses to explain away their discrimination against ordaining women.  Even most Catholic women don’t buy it as anything other than sexist, misogynistic crap.

Sorry Don, you may not like the epithet, but you have failed to convince me you aren’t  just another homophobe hiding behind a rather large pile of paper-thin arguments.

Chrys Stevenson

Titillating Euphemisms

For my brilliant friend Shelley Stocken who wrote me a poem about genitals.  How else to repay her but to write one back about titillating euphemisms.  This one’s for you Shelley.

Titillating Euphemisms

I’m going into business

And I know that you’ll be shocked,

But I’m going to start a Titillating Euphemism shop.

Folks will bring me in their tired old todgers, dicks and cocks

And I’ll send ‘em out the door with throbbing manhoods in their jocks.


If you’re sick of that old fanny, tuppy, beaver, box or cunny

I’ve a palpitating portal you can take home to your honey.

If your boobs are tired and sagging and your nipples face the floor

I can whip you up two golden orbs with rosebud tips galore.


But I have a little problem with this business plan cum hobby –

And it’s, “Will my ads pass muster with the Aussie Christian Lobby?”

Will Ms Francis see my billboard and will I be berated

Cos the ‘tit’ in Titillating isn’t technically ‘G-rated’?


Will she ring her friends at Adshel and demand it’s taken down?

Will my business go arse-up before it’s started?

Or will commonsense and sanity, perhaps, at last prevail

And will Adshel tell Ms Francis to get f…. arted?

Chrys Stevenson

Reference:  Fresh Controversy over Bus Stop Condom Ads

Put Gay Rights on Perth CHOGM’s Agenda

Melbourne born, British based, gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell has called for urgent lobbying of the Commonwealth Secretary General, urging him to include LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual/Transgender) rights at the forthcoming CHOGM conference to be held in Perth from 28-30 October 2011.

Tatchell’s message reads as follows:

Please lobby the Secretary General of the Commonwealth association of nations, Kamalesh Sharma, urging him to use his influence to ensure that LGBT human rights are discussed by the Commonwealth heads of government when they meet in Perth, Australia, 28-30 October.

Commonwealth leaders have never previously discussed the widespread victimisation of LGBT people by Commonwealth member states.

You can email the Secretary General here:

You can also write to him via the postal address in my letter below.

Feel free to take ideas and excerpts from my letter to use in your own submission.

Please be polite and thank Mr Sharma for his recent statements where he said that victimisation on the grounds of sexual orientation is incompatible with Commonwealth values.

These are the four LGBT issues we want on the official agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). We want them agreed and adopted by all Commonwealth nations:

  1. Decriminalisation of homosexuality
  2. Laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  3. The enforcement of legislation against threats and violence, to protect LGBT people from hate crimes
  4. Consultation and dialogue with LGBT organisations

The Commonwealth heads of government have always refused to address the widespread violation of LGBT human rights. We want this to be the breakthrough summit.

I [PeterTatchell] wrote an article in May in The Guardian newspaper, which strongly criticised the Secretary General and the Commonwealth for their failure to speak out against homophobic and transphobic persecution in member countries.

Within 10 days, Kamalesh Sharma became the first Commonwealth Secretary General to make an explicit and unequivocal public statement criticising homophobia and homophobic discrimination.

Following further lobbying, at the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in Sydney in July, Mr Sharma reiterated that sexual orientation victimisation is incompatible with Commonwealth values.

We now need to build on these successes by ensuring that LGBT human rights are on the agenda of the heads of government when they meet in Perth at the end of this month. Time is short. Please lobby the Secretary General at your earliest convenience. Thank you.

Lobbying the Secretary General direct will add to the magnificent work being done by many other LGBT groups and HIV and human rights organisations. They, too, are pushing for change within the Commonwealth. Our collective efforts in recent months give us the best prospect ever of getting LGBT human rights on the official CHOGM agenda.

The Commonwealth is an association of 54 nations, mostly former British colonies and mostly in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. More than 40 of its member states still criminalise homosexuality, with penalties including flogging and life imprisonment.

Further information:

Here is a copy of Peter Tatchell’s letter to the Commonwealth Secretary General:


Secretary General
Commonwealth Secretariat
Marlborough House
Pall Mall
London SW1Y 5HX

Dear Kamalesh Sharma,

Re CHOGM in Perth in October – LGBT equality and human rights

First, let me thank you very much for your speech at the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in July, where you stated that “vilification and targeting on grounds of sexual orientation are at odds with the values of the Commonwealth”.

This was, of course, only the latest of a number of positive statements that you have made in affirmation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights.

We greatly appreciate you showing leadership on this issue.

We note that we have not heard any negative responses from member state governments to your humanitarian outreach to the LGBT citizens of the Commonwealth family of nations. We hope this will give you the confidence to continue and strengthen your public commitment to LGBT human rights.

Second, we were very grateful to be granted a meeting in August with the Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General, Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, at Marlborough House. It was a constructive dialogue and we trust that it has secured new understanding between us, and will lead to further constructive engagement.

We hope the common ground we found at this meeting – concerning the need to tackle homophobia and transphobia – will embolden you to act in private and public to defend LGBT human rights, particularly right now in Uganda, where the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is likely to be revived, and in Cameroon, where the on-going arrest, jailing and mistreatment of men on charges of homosexuality is a matter of grave concern.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has details of the repression in Cameroon. I would urge you to news release a statement appealing to the government of Cameroon to halt its persecution of LGBT people; with specific reference to the fact that such persecution is incompatible with Commonwealth values and international humanitarian law.

Third, I write to you regarding this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia.

I am working with a number of LGBT, human rights and Commonwealth ngos, including the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

We are collectively urging that LGBT human rights be put on the agenda of CHOGM in October. We hope that you can assist us in this respect.

CHOGM has never even discussed – let alone declared its support for – LGBT equality and human rights. It is long overdue that CHOGM addressed this humanitarian issue, which it has neglected for far too long. We hope that this year’s CHOGM will end these decades of silence and inaction.

For CHOGM to discuss LGBT human rights would be consistent with the human rights values endorsed by the Commonwealth in its 1979 Lusaka Declaration, 1991 Harare Declaration and 2009 Port of Spain Affirmation of Commonwealth Values. Article 5 of this affirmation commits Commonwealth member states to the “protection and promotion” of equality and human rights “without discrimination on any grounds.” Any grounds obviously includes the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

These are the four issues we would like to see on the CHOGM agenda and that we believe all Commonwealth member states should agree to enact:

1.       Decriminalisation of homosexuality

2.       Laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

3.       The enforcement of legislation against threats and violence, to protect LGBT people from hate crimes

4.       Consultation and dialogue with LGBT organisations

 Your personal support and influence would be a big help to ensure that these important humanitarian issues are placed on the CHOGM agenda.

As you know, more than 40 Commonwealth countries currently criminalise homosexuality, mostly as a result of laws that were imposed by Britain during the colonial era and which were not repealed when these nations won their independence.

The penalties for homosexuality include 25 years jail in Trinidad and Tobago and 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia. Several Commonwealth countries stipulate life imprisonment: Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Guyana.

These forty-plus Commonwealth member states account for more than half of the world’s countries that still criminalise same-sex relations.

There are, or have been, homophobic witch-hunts in several Commonwealth countries: Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Ghana.

A group of us have been working with the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. They are supportive; believing that CHOGM should affirm that the Commonwealth’s commitment to equality and human rights applies to all Commonwealth citizens, including LGBT people. We hope you will concur and use your office to ensure that this happens.

Thank you for your consideration and assistance.

Sincere appreciation,

Peter Tatchell 
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation 
London, UK

Peter Tatchell Foundation (PTF)



Follow the PTF on Twitter:!/PT_Foundation
Join the PTF on Facebook:

Subscribe (for free) to PTF campaign
For information about the PTF: