International Development minister: Anti-gay laws in Commonwealth ‘absolutely unacceptable’
A government minister has spoken out about anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth, as the majority of countries continue to enforce colonial-era laws criminalising homosexuality.
Labour peer and Stonewall co-founder Lord Cashman raised the issue in the House of Lords this week, ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which takes place in Malta at the end of this month.
Lord Cashman challenged the government to advocate for the end of the laws, which are mostly hold-overs from British colonialism, after polling found that the UK public hugely underestimate the number of anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth.
He said: “The criminalisation of homosexuality is a relic of our colonial past. Forty out of 53 Commonwealth countries criminalise homosexuality.
“At CHOGM, will the Government advocate and promote the decriminalisation of homosexuality within the Commonwealth, support those countries that have already done so and express regret for the UK’s historic role in the global criminalisation of homosexuality?”
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development, Baroness Verma, responded: “At CHOGM, I will be chairing the round table on LGBT issues.
“It is absolutely unacceptable in the 21st century that we are still looking at these issues, but we have to do it with sensitivity.
“We have to work with countries where these are sensitive issues and make sure that we continue to raise them while also working locally on the ground, with grass-roots organisations, to offer help and support.”
Around the world, 75 countries continue to criminalise homosexuality – including more than 40 of the 53 members of the Commonwealth.
Just three percent of UK citizens are aware of the scale of the problem, with the vast majority under-estimating the issue.