Across the Commonwealth, some outdated sexual offence laws discriminate against or fail to protect LGBT people, women, children and people with disabilities. The Human Dignity Trust has developed seventeen indicators of good practice, and an interactive website tool that allows you to see and compare the extent to which each of these indicators is met, across the 54 Commonwealth countries. The seventeen indicators are based in the following four areas of law: Sexual assault; Child sexual assault; Disability and sexual offences; and Consensual same-sex sexual activity.
The ‘Changing Laws, Changing Lives’ tool aims to support legal reform by comparing jurisdictions and highlighting areas for improvement in legislation. For example, in 32 Commonwealth countries it is not a crime for a woman to be raped if the perpetrator is her husband; yet it remains a crime for LGBT people to engage in consensual, intimate relationships in 35 countries.
The tool also demonstrates that change is possible, by highlighting examples of good practice. For example Lesotho, South Africa and Eswatini (formally Swaziland), all have consistently good legislation on child sexual assault – something that is mixed in the region, with neighbouring Botswana, and nearby Zambia and Malawi not meeting the good practice criteria for child sexual offences at all. Similarly, Sierra Leone stands out amongst West African Commonwealth countries as meeting the criteria for good sexual assault legislation.
The tool uses an intuitive red, amber, green traffic light system to demonstrate at-a-glance to what extent legislation is human rights compliant across the seventeen indicators of good practice.
The Human Dignity Trust is a UK-based organisation that focuses on strategic litigation to challenge the criminalisation of homosexuality around the world. It uses litigation in national and regional courts to ensure that national criminal laws conform with international human rights obligations, as well as with constitutional law norms.
You can explore the tool in full here: https://www.humandignitytrust.org/reform
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