Over a billion people are living under British anti-gay laws as 40th Commonwealth Day celebrated
People from around the globe are celebrating the 40th Commonwealth Day – as more than a billion people in ex-British colonies continue to live under anti-gay laws.
To mark the anniversary the Queen revealed that a baton will “visit people living in the nations and territories of our Commonwealth family in every continent and ocean.”
The day is being marked on Twitter with the official hashtag #Commonwealth4Peace – but there’s little peace for LGBT citizens in 40 of the 52 member states, where homosexuality continues to be criminalised.
Anti-gay laws originating in Britain aren’t an archaic part of history – they are an archaic part of the present.
From Barbados to Saint Lucia, Sri Lanka to Tonga, most member states continue to have oppressive rules on their LGBT citizens.
Many Commonwealth countries continue to enforce penal codes that were first introduced under the British Empire, and never repealed.
They include 10 years imprisonment and hard labour in Jamaica, 14 years in Kenya, 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia, and 25 years in Trinidad and Tobago.
Bangladesh, Barbados, Guyana, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda have a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Homosexuality is punishable by death in member states Brunei and the northern part of Nigeria.
According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 97 percent of Nigerian residents believe that homosexuality is a way of life that society should not accept.
India’s government has refused to decriminalise homosexuality, after the country’s Supreme Court restored their Colonial-era penal code in 2013.
In Malawi, a spokesman for the People’s Party, one of the main political parties in Malawi, said gay people are “worse than dogs” and should be killed.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Scotland, has said the Commonwealth needs to build a “consensus” on the issue of LGBT human rights.
She said: “What we have to accept is that this [decriminalising homosexuality] is something that will depend on consensus.
“We do not have the right or opportunity to force states, but we can start a really good conversation to work with them so they understand the economic issues in relations to human rights and make the change.
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“The one thing I have to do is to build consensus and trust and I can hope it will be on the Commonwealth Agenda.”
Former British PM David Cameron expressed his support for the Kaleidescope Trust, who campaign to overcome these anti-gay laws, saying: “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 UK government recently praised reform in the Seychelles, after it agreed to push forward with plans to repeal the country’s British Colonial-era anti-gay law.
Confirming the move, the Seychelles government had specifically noted advocacy from British diplomats.
Member states outlawing homosexuality include Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Malawi, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Kiribati and Tonga.