Challenging Laws: Progress and Prospects in Overturning 150 Years of Discriminatory Sexual Offence Legislation in the Commonwealth

In this talk, Téa Braun will speak about the decriminalisation of LGBT people as well as the work of the Human Dignity Trust on related sexual offence laws that discriminate against or fail adequately to protect women, children and other marginalised groups, all of which form part of an ongoing legacy of British colonial times.

Téa is the executive director of the Human Dignity Trust, a London-based organisation that uses the law to defend the human rights of LGBT people globally. Since 2012, Téa has been involved in supporting court cases in all regions of the world that seek to decriminalise LGBT people and challenge other discriminatory actions against them, including several landmark cases that are pushing the boundaries of international and constitutional law. She has also overseen ground-breaking global research on the extent to which discriminatory, colonial-era sexual offences laws still exist around much of the world, fomenting stigma, discrimination and violence against multiple groups in society including LGBT people, women, children and persons with disabilities. Téa is a member of the Law Society of British Columbia, Canada (non-practising) and her expertise is in international human rights law and comparative constitutional law, with a particular focus on matters relating to women’s human rights and LGBT human rights. In addition to several years in private legal practice in Canada, she has also previously held inter-governmental appointments as Gender Equality Advisor to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Human Rights Advisor to the Commonwealth Secretariat. She has advised multiple governments, civil society organisations and litigants across Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean.

Edwin Cameron will be the respondent. Edwin retired from judicial service in August 2019, after 25 years as a judge, the last eleven in the Constitutional Court. He was educated at Pretoria Boys’ High School, Stellenbosch and as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. During apartheid, he was a human rights lawyer. He has fought for LGBTI equality and was a fierce critic of President Mbeki’s AIDS denialist policies. He has written two memoirs, Witness to AIDS (2005) and Justice: A Personal Account (2014). After retiring, he was elected Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (September 2019) and appointed Judicial Inspector of Correctional Services (January 2020).