Petition to Commonwealth: Repeal your old anti-LGBT laws

Petition seeks repeal of anti-LGBT laws in Commonwealth counties.
Petition seeks repeal of anti-LGBT laws in effect in 37 Commonwealth countries. The total of 53 member countries in the Commonwealth are shown on this map.

The time has come for the leaders of former British colonies to discuss the repeal of anti-LGBT laws left over from their days as subjects of the British Empire, more than 100,000 petitioners say.

The online petition, titled “Stop LGBTI persecution in the Commonwealth,” states:

Logo of the Commonwealth
Logo of the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will take place in the UK in April 2018. We urge the CHOGM 2018 organisers to:

  • Include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) human rights on the main CHOGM agenda.
  • Invite openly LGBTI people from the Commonwealth to address the CHOGM leaders.

We appeal to all Commonwealth countries to:

  • Decriminalise same-sex relations.
  • Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation & gender identity.
  • Enforce laws against threats & violence, to protect LGBTI people from hate crime.
  • Consult and dialogue with LGBTI organisations.

37 out of the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth criminalise same-sex relations. They account for half of the world’s nations where homosexuality is illegal. Most of these countries inherited their anti-gay laws from Britain during the period of colonial rule; making these laws a hang-over from the colonial era.

At least nine of these 37 countries have a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for same-sex acts and there is the death penalty in parts of northern Nigeria and rural Pakistan.

Hate crimes against LGBTI people often pass unchecked in most Commonwealth countries, with frequent mob violence. The majority of LGBTIs living in Commonwealth states have no legal protection against discrimination in employment, housing and the provision of goods and services.

This makes a mockery of Commonwealth values and the Commonwealth Charter 2013.

We urge CHOGM 2018 to lead the way in raising awareness of LGBTI rights as human rights and to act to remedy LGBTI rights abuses.

Four out of five Commonwealth countries, which are signatories to the Charter, have failed to adhere to its principles and the Commonwealth has failed to ensure that these nations respect the human rights of their LGBTI citizens.

The criminalisation of LGBTI people in Commonwealth countries often goes hand-in-hand with other human rights violations, such as restrictions on free speech and the right to protest/strike, media censorship and discrimination against women and ethnic and faith minorities.

We stand in solidarity with all Commonwealth citizens who are victims of human rights abuses.


African LGBTI activist Edwin Sesange (Photo courtesy of
African LGBTI activist Edwin Sesange

The petition was organized by Edwin Sesange of the London-based African Equality Foundation.

He said:

“The demand for equality in the Commonwealth 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.  Thus I appeal to the leaders and other stakeholders to represent the views and voices of the innocent, oppressed, discriminated and persecuted LGBTI people in the Commonwealth.”

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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