The protestors demanded decriminalisation in 37 of the 53 Commonwealth nations that still outlaw homosexuality. Nine of them have life imprisonment for gay sex and in parts of two countries, Nigeria and Pakistan, there is the death penalty.
The protest at Westminster Abbey, as dignitaries arrived, included LGBTQ people from across the Commonwealth and was coordinated by the Peter Tatchell Foundation working with 14 other UK-based human rights groups.
Protest organiser Peter Tatchell said:
“The Commonwealth is ahomophobic institution. It is a bastion of anti-LGBTQ laws, discrimination and hate crime. LGBTQ issues have never been discussed, not even once, by Commonwealth leaders at any of their summits over the last six decades.”
“Surely in 2018 Commonwealth heads of government should address the state-sanctioned persecution of more than 100 million LGBTQ Commonwealth citizens.
“Most of these anti-gay laws were imposed by Britain during the colonial era in the nineteenth century. They are not authentic indigenous laws. Now that these nations are independent, they should be repealed as a continuation of the de-colonisation process,” said Mr Tatchell.
The protest against Commonwealth homophobia was joined by representatives from 15 campaign groups (list below) and Commonwealth LGBTQ citizens who have been driven from their home countries after often violent persecution because of their sexuality or gender identity.
Abbey, who escaped Uganda, said he “came from hell, with cigarette burns in both my palms and on my legs, scars on my face which resulted from the constant beating. I went through every kind of human degradation.”
The protestors key demands from the Commonwealth:
- Decriminalise same-sex relations
- Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- Enforce laws against threats and violence, to protect LGBTQ people from hate crimes
- Consult and dialogue with national LGBTQ organisations
Next month, campaigners will hand a petition to the Commonwealth’s Secretary General; it currently has over 90,000 signatures and is growing. The petition is timed to coincide with the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which, this year, is being held in London and Windsor.
“I have tried for 30 years to get the Commonwealth leader’s summit to discuss the criminalisation of LGBTQs by 70% of member states. They refuse and most also reject dialogue with their local LGBTQ movements,” added Mr Tatchell.
“Commonwealth countries account for half of the world’s 72 nations where same-sex relations are illegal. Hate crimes against LGBTQ people are widespread and unchecked in these countries.”
“More than 100 million LGBTQ people living in Commonwealth nations have no legal protection against discrimination in employment, housing, education, health care and the provision of good and services. This makes a mockery of Commonwealth values and the human rights principles of the Commonwealth Charter.”
“The London summit is an opportunity to debate this issue and hear the voices of LGBTQ people from across the Commonwealth. It is time to end this unabated persecution.
“Our huge thanks to the 14 organisations and the many LGBTQ activists from across the Commonwealth who made such an impact today,” concluded Mr Tatchell.
Photo by Peter Tatchell Foundation. Peter Tatchell with Rev Jide Macaulay (left), Hamimah Minah and Edwin Sesange (right) of Uganda.