John Bercow to back gay rights reform in Commonwealth

 

Human rights reforms in the 76 countries around the world where homosexual activity is illegal are to be championed by John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons.

In a speech next week, Mr Bercow will highlight the plight of gay men and women in 41 of the 54 Commonwealth countries which have not yet abolished laws criminalising homosexuality, including five where the maximum penalty is death. He will argue that the laws are on the statute book as a result of the nations' colonial legacy from Britain.

The Speaker will address the Kaleidoscope Trust, which works around the world to promote diversity and respect for all regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. The group believes that everyone should enjoy basic human rights free from unlawful discrimination, persecution and intimidation.

Mr Bercow, who became president of Kaleidoscope when it was launched last September, raised eyebrows in March when he described the Queen as "a kaleidoscope Queen of a kaleidoscope country in a kaleidoscope Commonwealth". He was introducing the monarch at an event in Parliament's Westminster Hall to mark her Diamond Jubilee.

Kaleidoscope, the only British charity working exclusively on gay human rights worldwide, has won the backing of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband – allowing the Speaker to become involved because its work is not a matter of domestic political controversy. The group is to present Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, with an award in July after she took up the issue.

Mr Bercow's lecture will take place at the Commonwealth Club in Northumberland Avenue, London on 16 May, the eve of International Day Against Homophobia. It is sponsored by Evgeny Lebedev, chairman of Independent Print Ltd. To buy tickets online visit bercowlecture.eventbrite.com

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