Dr Peter Tatchell
Honorary Doctor of Law
Campaigner, author, journalist and broadcaster, Peter Tatchell has devoted his life to speaking out against discrimination and injustice. Born in Australia, he began campaigning for Aboriginal rights while still at school. He actively opposed the death penalty and US and Australian involvement in the Vietnam War.
After moving to London in 1971, he soon became a leading member of the Gay Liberation Front. In 1990, he co-founded gay rights group OutRage!, which campaigned so successfully against alleged police harassment that the number of gay men convicted for consenting sexual behaviour in the UK fell by two-thirds in three years.
There have also been other long-running campaigns against apartheid, nuclear weapons, environmental degradation and the death penalty. He has spoken out against dictatorships in Franco's Spain, Pinochet's Chile and Khomeini's Iran, campaigned for independence in East Timor and West Papua and against human rights abuses across the world.
His work to promote the enforcement of international human rights law has included efforts to secure the prosecution of Robert Mugabe and Henry Kissinger, and two attempts at a citizen's arrest on the Zimbabwean president. He is currently spearheading the Equal Love campaign, aimed at ending the bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. Since 2009, he has been an ambassador for the penal reform group, Make Justice Work.
His campaigning activities have come at considerable cost. He has been placed under police surveillance, threatened with assassination and subjected to hundreds of personal assaults and attacks on his home. In 2001 he was beaten unconscious during his second attempt to arrest Robert Mugabe, and in 2007, he suffered further brain and eye injuries when attacked by neo-Nazis at the Moscow Gay Pride March.
Although ill-health has forced him to give up his plans to stand as a Green Party candidate, Peter Tatchell remains a driving force for change. He works for 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and survives mainly on donations. "I can understand why people want a quiet, relaxed, material life," he says. "But on another level I can't understand why people just accept things the way they are. We live in a world of such plenty that it's unconscionable that so many people don't have the basics. That is just morally unacceptable."