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Commonwealth homophobia: More than 100,000 sign petition calling for gay sex to be decriminalised

March 30, 2018
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - AUGUST 01: Israelis and members of the gay community attend an anti-homophobia rally on August 1, 2015 in Jerusalem, Israel. Thousands of people took part in rallies across Israel to protest Thursday's stabbing attack at Jerusalem's Gay Pride parade and the West Bank arson attack in which an 18-month-old Palestinian infant was killed. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

(Getty)

100,000 people have signed a petition calling on Commonwealth countries to roll back their anti-gay laws.

More than one billion people live in Commonwealth countries with colonial-era gay sex laws.

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Commonwealth countries continue to enforce penal codes that were first introduced under the British Empire, and never repealed.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.

Homosexuality is punishable by death in member states Brunei and the northern part of Nigeria.

Edwin Sesange, who launched the petition said: “The demand for equality is no longer an issue for the minority but for the majority.

“I therefore thank all those who have managed to bring this issue to light.

“These signatures represent a need which can no longer be ignored by the leadership of the Commonwealth.

“I appeal to the leaders and other stakeholders to represent the views and voices of the innocent, oppressed, discriminated and persecuted LGBTI people.”

A group of LGBT rights campaigners organised by the Peter Tatchell Foundation protested against the criminalisation of homosexuality on Commonwealth Day.

According to the Peter Tatchell Foundation, these Commonwealth Heads of Government have previously refused to discuss LGBT+ issues.

India’s Section 377 is one of the British colonial laws criminalising homosexuality (Getty)

RELATED: The facts: One billion people live under anti-gay laws exported by Britain

Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Commonwealth (Photo by Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In a statement accompanying the protest, Peter Tatchell said: “In sixty years of Commonwealth summits, LGBT+ issues have never been discussed by leaders, not even once.

“Surely in 2018, as London plays host to the summit, we can at least have a discussion with the Commonwealth Heads of Government?

“100 to 200 million LGBT+ people are persecuted on a daily basis and treated as criminals in 70% of Commonwealth nations.”

Related: Commonwealth grants recognition to LGBT Equality Network

A 2015 poll conducted in the UK by YouGov for the AIDS Alliance found that people massively underestimate the scale of the issue – with most believing that just a handful of Commonwealth countries continue to persecute LGBT people.

The poll asked: “There are currently 53 countries in the Commonwealth. In your estimation, roughly how many of these do you think currently criminalise people for same-sex, sexual activity?”

Just nine percent of people correctly identified that more than 30 Commonwealth nations have anti-gay laws, with three-quarters of people either underestimating the issue or admitting they don’t know.

Half believed the number was lower than 20, 27 percent of people could make no guess at all, while 19 percent believed between 20 and 40 Commonwealth countries criminalise homosexuality.

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.

More: commonwealth, human rights, LGBT, Peter Tatchell, Rights

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