Honorary Doctorate for Peter Tatchell
Sussex University award for 43 years of human rights activism; Acceptance in solidarity with human rights activists worldwide
26 July, 2010
LONDON — Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell received an Honorary Doctorate for services to human rights on Friday, 23 July.
The award from Sussex University was made by the Chancellor, Sanjeev Bhaskar, at the graduation ceremony at Brighton Dome.
It is in recognition of Mr Tatchell's 43 years of campaigning for human rights, democracy, global justice and LGBT freedom.
Commenting on his Hon D.Litt (Sussex), Mr Tatchell said:
"I was hesitant about accepting this honour. After all, my contribution to human rights is very modest. I am a long way from being a brave and effective campaigner. Many others are much more deserving than me.
"I would never agree to a royal honour but this award is different.
"My decision to accept was partly because the initiative for this honorary doctorate was a grassroots one, from the staff and students. I am honoured by their recognition of my human rights work.
"I accept this award in solidarity with the many heroic, inspirational activists who I support in countries like Uganda, Somaliland, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Baluchistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Western Sahara, Iraq, Palestine and West Papua.
"The message I deliver in my acceptance speech is this: Be sceptical, question authority, be a rebel. All human progress is the result of far-sighted people challenging orthodoxy, tradition and powerful, vested interests. Don't accept the world as it is. Dream about what the world could be – then help make it happen. In whatever field of endeavour you work, be a change-maker for the upliftment of humanity.
"I do my bit for social justice, but so do many others. Together, through our collective efforts, we are helping make a better world – a world more just and free. .
"My key political inspirations are Mohandas Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst, Martin Luther King and, to some extent, Malcolm X. I've adapted many of their ideas and methods to the contemporary struggle for human rights – and invented a few of my own.
"I began campaigning in my home town of Melbourne, Australia, in 1967, aged 15.
"My first campaign was against the death penalty, followed by campaigns in support of Aboriginal rights and in opposition to conscription and the Australian and US war against the people of Vietnam.
"In 1969, on realising that I was gay, the struggle for queer freedom became an increasing focus of my activism.
"After moving to London in 1971, I became an activist in the Gay Liberation Front, organising sit-ins at pubs that refused to serve 'poofs', and protests against police harassment and the medical classification of homosexuality as an illness.
"I was roughed up and evicted when I disrupted Professor Hans Eysenck's 1972 lecture which advocated electric shock aversion therapy to 'cure' homosexuality.
"The following year, in East Berlin, I was arrested and interrogated by the secret police – the Stasi – after staging the first gay rights protest in a communist country," said Peter Tatchell.
Read more about Peter Tatchell's four decades of human rights campaigning here. – Issued by Outrage!
A few words with Peter Tatchell