Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom on Monday signed the Commonwealth Charter aimed at upholding certain principles and ending discrimination across the 54 countries that make up the British Commonwealth. The document included democracy, the rule of law and gender equality.
Surprisingly, however, was what observers said was a striking lack of any public declaration for the rights of the LGBT community, who in 41 Commonwealth countries face jail for simply being gay.
The document had received much publicity in the lead up to Monday’s inking, with LGBT activists across the world telling 429Magazine they believed it could be a watershed moment for their rights in places where governments have curtailed their ability to live freely.
For many, it would have been a step on a symbolic path to equal rights for people across the British Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Charter states opposition to “all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, color, creed, political belief or other grounds.” Observers had thought it would add specific LGBT provisions before the Queen signed the document, but in the end, it did not come to fruition.
However, the document should ensure that some gay rights are upheld and that discrimination as a whole must be shunned across the Commonwealth. It is unclear if countries infringing on the charter will be booted from the Commonwealth or be censured.
While signing the charter will not change the face of the Commonwealth immediately, it sets the stage for reform in many of the countries across the world where being gay is still illegal and jail times are present, despite no explicit mention of the LGBT community.