Britain has been accused of “caving in” to pressure from the governments of Commonwealth states which criminalise homosexuality.
There’d been a planned UK effort to promote gay rights at the bloc’s upcoming summit in London but that now seems less likely.
A guide on international best practice on sexual orientation and gender identity had been due to be published by the Government Equalities Office on 16 April, the opening day of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting.
But the summit is fast approaching and now the Government is saying only that the guide would come out “in due course”. Funny that.
Some 37 of the Commonwealth’s 53 nations still outlaw homosexuality. Nine of the member states that criminalise homosexuality have life imprisonment as the punishment while more are accused of failing to protect LGBT people against discrimination and hate crime.
The bloc was described as a “bastion of homophobia” by the veteran human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, who said that the government appeared to have downgraded what was supposed to be a new report and gone back on a promise to publish on 16 April to coincide with the Commonwealth summit.
Leaders at previous Commonwealth summits have avoided any meaningful talks on LGBT rights.
In February, the British overseas territory of Bermuda also became the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise and then repeal same-sex marriage, in what critics have called an unprecedented rollback of civil rights by the British territory.
Pressed by Bryant as to why the move had been approved by the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the junior Foreign Office minister, Harriett Baldwin, said the government was “obviously disappointed” but felt it had no choice after legislation was decided by the island’s elected government.
The UK government does have a choice, however, to press for equality for LGBT+ people at the Commonwealth summit. If it doesn’t, that can only be a reflection of how little store Boris Johnson, Theresa May and – fanrkly – Her Majesty the Queen have in the issue.