Boris Johnson assures Tom Daley he’ll raise anti-LGBT laws with Commonwealth countries
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has assured diver Tom Daley that he will continue to raise the issue of LGBT human rights in Commonwealth countries.
Daley made the news on April 13 when, after winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, he called out the number of countries that criminalise gay sex.
36 Commonwealth countries continue to criminalise gay sex, primarily under British Colonial-era sodomy laws, and Daley said: “You want to feel comfortable in who you are when you are standing on that diving board, and for 37 Commonwealth countries that are here participating that is not the case.
“I feel with the Commonwealth, we can really help push some of the other nations to relax their laws on anti-gay stuff.”
After hearing the diver’s comments, Johnson told the BBC that he would continue to raise the issue.
Speaking to Newsbeat, he said: “The UK campaigns on its values around the world in the Commonwealth – and in every forum we champion LGBT rights and we fly the flag in all our embassies.
“[I am] not going to pretend that we are going to transform global attitudes overnight.
“I had a conversation very recently with a Commonwealth country about this issue. I won’t say which one, and I made the case which I believe in absolutely passionately.
“If you allow people to live their lives as they choose and to express their love in the way that they want, then you will find that you achieve far greater economic success as a result.”
Asked if the UK overlooks LGBT rights for trade deals, he insisted: “No we don’t.
“You have just heard an account of the conversation I had with a particular Commonwealth leader and we don’t overlook it and we make that point.
“There will be more on that over the course of the next few days.”
Johnson’s comments come after Theresa May told Commonwealth leaders that the UK “deeply regrets” its legacy of imposing anti-gay laws.
Addressing the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on Tuesday, May said: “Across the world, discriminatory laws made many years ago continue to affect the lives of many people, criminalising same sex relations and failing to protect women and girls.
“I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.
“As the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, I deeply regret the fact that such laws were introduced, and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.”
She added: “As a family of nations, we must respect one another’s cultures and traditions, but we must do so in a manner consistent with our common value of equality – a value that is clearly stated in the Commonwealth charter.
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“Recent years have brought progress. The three nations that have most recently decriminalised same-sex relationships are all Commonwealth members, and since the heads of government last met, the Commonwealth has agreed to accredit its first organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“Yet there remains much to do. Nobody should face discrimination or persecution because of who they are or who they love.”
“The UK stands ready to support any Commonwealth member wanting to reform outdated legislation that makes such discrimination possible, because the world has changed,” May added.
May said: “If the Commonwealth is to endure in such a world, we must demonstrate our purpose anew. We must show what the Commonwealth is capable of, and this summit can be the moment where that change begins to happen.”
The Prime Minister’s comments come following pressure by campaigners, with more than 100,000 people signing a petition calling for the issue to be raised at the meeting, alongside pressure from the Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN).