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Queen to sign new Commonwealth Charter on equal rights

Queen to sign new Commonwealth Charter on equal rights

The Telegraph reports Queen Elizabeth II will sign a new agreement to ban discrimination in the Commonwealth:

In a special ceremony to mark Commonwealth Day on Monday, she will also give a speech endorsing the new agreement which states signatories oppose “all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”

The charter was agreed by all Commonwealth heads of government in December.

NPR reports that perhaps gay rights are included:

Her Majesty will sign a new charter for the Commonwealth on Monday. The charter declares the core values for the 54 member states, most of which were once under British rule. This new version is getting attention for statements on gender equality and what it may imply for gay rights.

The section on gender states: “We recognise that gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential components of human development and basic human rights.”

The legislation could affect the child of the duke and duchess of Cambridge; should they have a girl, she may well be queen someday.

While the concept of gender equality is clearly endorsed, implications for gay rights are not so straightforward. In reference to human rights, the charter says: “We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”

But human rights activist Peter Tatchell tells The Australian Associated Press: “It is an important document but it does not include any explicit commitment to gay rights.” Tatchell says 41 of the 54 Commonwealth member countries criminalize homosexuality.

Still, Ben Summerskill of the Stonewall rights group says the queen has taken a “‘step forward’ on gay rights,” according to the Mail.

A “diplomatic source” told the paper, “The impact of this statement on gay and women’s rights should not be underestimated.”


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Vic Mansfield
Rod Gillis

The charter seems to want to uphold individual rights such as freedom of expression as well as social rights like sustainable development. A positive balance.

The articulation of gender equality is important. Yet, I suspect, sadly, that social conservatives in the church will understand this as not relevant to women’s ordination. The role of religion in contributing to, rather than overcoming, sexism will continue notwithstanding. Would like to know more on Ben Summerskills’ views in relation to this document.

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