Gay Activists Say All Member States Should Decriminalize Homosexuality

Two days before the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta, 27-29 November, Gay activists rallied outside the Commonwealth headquarters in London to demand that all Commonwealth members states “decriminalise homosexuality and legislate equal rights for their LGBTI citizens, in accordance with the human rights principles of the Commonwealth Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”


“For over 60 years, CHOGM has refused to even discuss LGBTI human rights, let alone support LGBTI equality. This CHOGM is no different. They won’t even allow LGBTI rights on the agenda,” noted Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organization, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, who has been lobbying the Commonwealth on LGBTI issues for over 20 years.

“Forty of the 53 member states of the Commonwealth criminalise homosexuality. They account for more than half of the world’s countries where same-sex relations are illegal. Ninety per cent of Commonwealth citizens live in countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence and where LGBTI people have no legal protection against discrimination and hate crime. It is state-sponsored homophobia and it is happening in 75% of the Commonwealth member nations, without any rebuke by the Commonwealth Secretary-General.


“This homophobic repression is getting worse in some Commonwealth nations; notably Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria, Brunei and The Gambia.

“What is the point of having a Commonwealth Charter committed to equality and non-discrimination if three quarters of the member states violate its principles and get away with it?

Many of the anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth were imposed by Britain in the nineteenth century, during the era of colonial occupation. But this is no excuse for now independent self-governing nations to perpetuate foreign-derived homophobic legislation,” said Mr Tatchell.

that protect the rights of all citizens, including LGBTI citizens


“The Theme of next week’s CHOGM is: Adding Global Value. This is about using the Commonwealth’s strengths in international politics to influence and effect change on important global issues. It is all about making a positive difference to the lives of Commonwealth citizens. Adding Global Value seeks to unify the Commonwealth behind an ambitious policy agenda that bequeaths to young people a life of liberty, dignity and prosperity,” said Edwin Sesange, Director of the African LGBTI organisation, the Out and Proud Diamond Group.

“Most of these countries inherited their anti-gay laws from Britain when it was their colonial ruler. They are a colonial hang-over. The existence of these anti-gay laws over the last century has created a climate where many people believe that homophobic attitudes and laws are a part of their cultures,” said Mr Sesange.

His Out and Proud Diamond Group colleague, Abbey Kiwanuka, added:

“At least seven Commonwealth countries impose life imprisonment for homosexuality. Parts of northern Nigeria and rural Pakistan have the death penalty for LGBTI people, and Brunei plans to introduce death by stoning. This makes a mockery of the Commonwealth Charter.


“Most countries that are signatories to the Commonwealth Charter have failed to live up to it. The Commonwealth has continued to do nothing serious and effective to encourage these nations to respect the liberty and dignity of their LGBTI citizens.

“The criminalisation and demonisation of homosexuality in the Commonwealth has led to mob-violence and the murder of LGBTI people, their denial of employment, housing and medical care, as well as imprisonment, torture and sexual assault.

“The Commonwealth boasts that it is strong in terms of international politics and global issues. Why, then, has it not used its strength to influence the decriminalisation of homosexuality?” Queried Mr Kiwanuka.