Prince Harry says the ‘tide is turning’ on LGBT rights in the Commonwealth
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.
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– continue to criminalise same-sex acts, primarily under laws imposed during the British Colonial era which were never repealed.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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The prince also told them that anti-gay laws should be shut down, Piggott said.
She left the meeting feeling encouraged.
“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.”