LGBT rights in the Commonwealth of Nations
The majority of the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, formerly known as the British Commonwealth, still criminalize sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex and other forms of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. This has been described as being the result of "the major historical influence" or legacy of the British Empire. In most cases, it was former colonial administrators that established anti-gay legislation or sodomy acts during the 19th century. The majority of countries then retained these laws following independence.
- 1 Recent Developments
- 2 Commonwealth nations where homosexuality is not a criminal offence
- 3 Commonwealth nations where homosexuality is a criminal offence
- 4 See also
- 5 References
In July 2011 it was reported that the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma had spoken out against discrimination towards people who were gay or lesbian while on a visit to Australia, arguing that “vilification and targeting on grounds of sexual orientation are at odds with the values of the Commonwealth”. This was the first time that such a figure had spoken publicly on the issue. Sharma re-emphasised the point in his keynote speech at the opening ceremoney of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, "We recall the 2009 Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles, which includes a clear commitment to tolerance, respect and understanding...Discrimination and criminalisation on grounds of sexual orientation is at odds with our values and I have had occasion to refer to this in the context of our law-related conferences”.
An organisation has been established in London in 2011, called The Kaleidoscope Trust, to lobby Britain's politicians so that ministers discuss LGBT issues whenever they host their foreign counterparts. It specifically aims to revoke anti-gay laws within the Commonwealth, using business and political pressure. The singers Elton John and George Michael have offered support, with Elton John attending the launch.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron indicated his support. "It's simply appalling how people can be treated — how their rights are trampled on and the prejudices and even the violence they suffer," he said. "I want Britain to be a global beacon for reform". The British Minister for International Development, Andrew Mitchell indicated in October that the UK would withhold aid from countries that had a poor human rights record in relation its homosexual citizens, "In a number of countries in Africa that discrimination against homosexuality has concerned us". Malawi subsequently had £19 million of budget support suspended by the UK following various infractions including poor progress on human rights and media freedoms and concern over the government's approach to gay rights. This was later reinforced by David Cameron who emphasises that those receiving UK aid should "adhere to proper human rights".
The British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the South Australian Labor MLC Ian Hunter called for LGBT rights to be put on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), to be held in Perth at the end of October. "CHOGM has never even discussed — let alone declared its support for — LGBT equality and human rights. It is long overdue that CHOGM addressed this humanitarian issue, which it has neglected for far too long.” This found further support when the Perth Member of the Legislative Assembly, John Hyde, called on Premier Colin Barnett to use his access to CHOGM delegates to address the issue of human rights for gay men and women. Finally, it was confirmed that the Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, would intervene at the October meeting with a request to scrap anti-gay laws.
The discussion on gay rights at the Perth meeting received a muted response from many of the attending delegates despite strong support from the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Agreement could not be reached to publish a report by Eminent Persons which looked at the Commonwealth's future relevance and demanded that all member states that outlawed homosexuality lift their bans.
In November 2012, Malawi's President Joyce Banda suspended all laws that criminalized homosexuality.
Homosexual activity remains a criminal offence in 40 of the 53 Commonwealth states.
Commonwealth nations where homosexuality is not a criminal offence
note: †Signed UN General Assembly declaration in favour of LGBT rights. ‡Signed alternative Statement against LGBT rights.
Where same-sex marriage is legal
Where same sex-relationships are recognised
With discrimination protections
- Bermuda (UK)†
- British Virgin Islands (UK)†
- Falkland Islands (UK)†
- Guernsey (UK)†
- Montserrat (UK)†
- Pitcairn Islands (UK)†
- Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (UK)†
- Turks and Caicos Islands (UK)†
- Mozambique (Employment only)
Same-sex activity legal, no discrimination protection
Commonwealth nations where homosexuality is a criminal offence
note: † Signed UN General Assembly declaration in favour of LGBT rights. ‡ Signed alternative Statement against LGBT rights.