On the eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, on 24th and 25th June, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has labelled the organisation, chiefly comprising former British colonies, “a homophobic institution”.
Thirty-five of the Commonwealth’s 54 member states – almost 70 per cent – criminalise same-sex relationships. Courts in seven countries retain the right to impose a sentence of life imprisonment while, in northern Nigeria, there is the death penalty.
The Commonwealth Charter specifically pledges equal rights to all its member states’ citizens.
Mr Tatchell said, “The Commonwealth is a homophobic institution. It is a bastion of anti-LGBT+ laws, discrimination and hate crime. LGBT+ issues have never been discussed, not even once, by Commonwealth leaders at any of their summits over the last three decades. ”
“Surely, in 2022, Commonwealth heads of government should address the state-sanctioned persecution of millions of LGBT+ 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 Now that these nations are independent, they should be repealed as a continuation of the decolonisation process.
“The Commonwealth Secretariat is an abject failure. It has sold out LGBT+ communities across the Commonwealth. The Secretary General, Baroness Scotland, has shown no leadership; failing to speak out publicly against the intensified persecution of LGBTs in Ghana, Cameroon and Uganda.”
He continued, “I have tried for 30 years to get the Commonwealth leader’s summit to discuss the criminalisation of LGBTs by more than two-thirds of the member states. They refuse and most also reject dialogue with their local LGBT+ movements.
“Commonwealth countries account for more than half of the world’s 69 nations where same-sex relations are illegal. Hate crimes against LGBT+ people are widespread and unchecked in these countries.
“Millions of LGBT+ 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.”