Current Affairs

Prince Harry says the ‘tide is turning’ on LGBT rights in the Commonwealth

Josh Jackman April 18, 2018
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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 18: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak with delegates from the Commonwealth Youth Forum at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on April 18, 2018 in London, United Kingdom (Photo by Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

(Yui Mok/WPA Pool/Getty)

Prince Harry has reportedly told young LGBT activists from across the Commonwealth that they are on the right side of history.

Speaking to representatives of the Commonwealth Youth Forum, the royal also said that Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech to Commonwealth leaders on Tuesday had given the activists “a mandate.”

The Prime Minister told the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London that the UK “deeply regrets” its legacy on anti-gay laws.

(Twitter/kensingtonroyal)

A majority of the countries in the Commonwealth – 36 out of 53 – continue to criminalise same-sex acts, primarily under laws imposed during the British Colonial era which were never repealed.

More than a billion people still live under anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth.

But the prince, who was speaking to advocates with his fiancée, humanitarian and gender equality activist Meghan Markle, said that change was in the air.

Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee US actress Meghan Markle attend a reception with delegates from the Commonwealth Youth Forum in central London on April 18, 2017, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM). / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Yui Mok (Photo credit should read YUI MOK/AFP/Getty Images)
(YUI MOK/AFP/Getty)

The Australian delegate, 27-year-old Jaz Dawson, told PinkNews that the Prince said: “Look, it’s amazing, because five to 10 years ago, we wouldn’t be having these conversations, and you guys would’ve been going against the tide.

“And now, here you are – the tide is changing, and this is a sign of it.”

She said the prince – who has been appointed as a Commonwealth youth ambassador by the queen – was “very encouraging.”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 18: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak with delegates from the Commonwealth Youth Forum at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on April 18, 2018 in London, United Kingdom (Photo by Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
(Yui Mok/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

“He said it’s time for us all to acknowledge that your inclusion and protecting everyone’s rights – including LGBTI rights – benefits everyone.”

Dawson said that Markle was also supportive of the activists’ goals, explaining that “she said that it’s just about basic rights. That’s it, simply. That’s all it is.”

During the six-minute meeting at the QEII Centre, she said the prince also welcomed news of the first Pride parade in Swaziland.

Britain's Prince Harry's attends a reception with delegates from the Commonwealth Youth Forum in central London on April 18, 2018, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM). / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Yui Mok (Photo credit should read YUI MOK/AFP/Getty Images)
(Yui Mok/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Harry also told the activists to “ask for one thing at a time, don’t get too ahead of yourselves – but he was really supportive,” said Dawson.

The prince said “we want to be on the right side of history,” she added.

“The main comment that he made that was distinct from anything else was that we need to understand that everybody gains from LGBTI rights, and that it’s not just a specific issue, but it’s something that when people’s rights are protected and respected, it’s a benefit for everyone.”

Britain's Prince Harry (R) and his fiancee, US actress Meghan Markle, attend a reception with delegates from the Commonwealth Youth Forum in central London on April 18, 2017, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM). / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Yui Mok (Photo credit should read YUI MOK/AFP/Getty Images)
(YUI MOK/AFP/Getty)

Dawson said this comment left the activists nearly speechless.

“We were amazed. We had fought so hard even to get into the Commonwealth space, and then to be speaking to royals because we’re LGBTI activists, is kind of stunning.

“It’s just very bizarre to be in that space, and to be acknowledged and respected for our work.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 18: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak with delegates from the Commonwealth Youth Forum at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on April 18, 2018 in London, United Kingdom (Photo by Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
(Yui Mok/WPA Pool/Getty)

“It really feels like we’re making a little bit of history.”

She said that “having someone like Prince Harry as the ambassador for youth, who is personally very pro-LGBTI and understanding, is a very positive place for us to be with our future activism.”

Barbados representative Donnya Piggott, 28 – who, like Jaz, was representing The Commonwealth Equality Network at the meeting – told PinkNews that the engaged pair were “wonderful.”

She talked to Harry and Markle about the ruling in Trinidad and Tobago on April 12 which legalised gay sex, to which she said they responded positively.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 18: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak with delegates from the Commonwealth Youth Forum at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on April 18, 2018 in London, United Kingdom (Photo by Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
(Yui Mok/WPA Pool/Getty)

And Piggott said the royal couple told the activists that “they shared our views on what needs to be done” across the Commonwealth to help LGBT youth.

The prince also told them that anti-gay laws should be shut down, Piggott said.

She left the meeting feeling encouraged.

Britain's Prince Harry (R) and his fiancee, US actress Meghan Markle, attend a reception with delegates from the Commonwealth Youth Forum in central London on April 18, 2017, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM). / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Yui Mok (Photo credit should read YUI MOK/AFP/Getty Images)
(Yui Mok/WPA Pool/Getty)

“They were very genuine… there was a real, genuine feeling allyship that I found in both of them. In both of them.

“We meet a lot of people, and people talk, but I felt coming out of it that it is something that can possibly be a priority for Prince Harry in his new role.”

Related topics: commonwealth, Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, meghan markle, prince harry, queen, Royal family, UK

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