U.K.: ‘Deep regret’ for laws against gay sex

British Prime Minister Theresa May has publicly expressed “deep regret” for Britain’s role in criminalizing same-sex relations in its former colonies. About half of the world’s remaining laws against gay sex were originally imposed by the British in their colonies.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May (Photo courtesy of The Independent)
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May (Photo courtesy of The Independent)

In contrast to poorly received comments in 2012 by then Prime Minister David Cameron that the U.K. would cut foreign aid to countries that violate human rights of LGBT people, May said, “The UK stands ready to support any Commonwealth nation wanting to reform outdated legislation that makes such discrimination possible.”

Leaders of former British colonies are in London this week for Commonwealth meetings on many pressing issues, but little to do with LGBT rights despite public pressure to tackle the subject.

The 53 mostly former British colonies in the Commonwealth account for 36 of the world’s 74 nations with anti-LGBT laws. (See this blog’s April 16 article “Commonwealth leaders, half of world’s anti-gay hate is yours”; its list of Commonwealth nations with anti-LGBT laws and its list of the world’s 74 nations that have such laws.)

The BBC reported today on May’s comment, which came as the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference got under way. That article is reprinted here with two annotations:

Map shows members of the Commonwealth of Nations, including those with anti-homosexuality laws and those that have repealed them. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia)
Map shows members of the Commonwealth of Nations, including those with anti-homosexuality laws and those that have repealed them. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia)

Theresa May ‘deeply regrets’ UK’s colonial anti-gay laws

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she deeply regrets the UK’s role in criminalising same-sex relations in its former colonies.

The laws were passed under British rule and are still used in 37 of the Commonwealth’s 53 member nations. [Editor’s note: Taking account for last week’s court ruling in Trinidad, the total is 36.]

There is a global trend towards decriminalising homosexual acts, but some countries, like Nigeria and Uganda, have imposed stricter laws.

At a Commonwealth meeting, Mrs May said laws were “wrong then and wrong now”.

“Nobody should face discrimination and persecution because of who they are or who they love,” Mrs May said in London as Commonwealth leaders gather for their summit, which is held every two years.

“The UK stands ready to support any Commonwealth nation wanting to reform outdated legislation that makes such discrimination possible.

“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.”

The number of states that criminalise same-sex relations is decreasing annually, with Belize and the Seychelles repealing such laws in 2016. [Editor’s note: Trinidad effectively did so last week, pending an appeal. The tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru also repealed its anti-gay law in 2016. Mozambique, with a population of 24 million, did so in 2015.]

 

But in many socially conservative and religious countries in Africa, where homosexuality is a taboo, there has been resistance to calls to decriminalise same-sex relationships.

South Africa, which rejoined the Commonwealth after the end of white-minority rule in 1994, is one of the exceptions.

It has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, which protects gay rights, and was the first African country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2006.

Related articles:

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, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

One Comment

Leave a Reply
  1. In my opinion Her Majesty the Queen, in her position as Head of the Commonwealth, should speak openly about the bigotry among the members of the Commonwealth that still maintain anti-homosexual laws and rules! Her Majesty can speak about the topic, and urge the members of the Commonwealth to abandon the present laws and rules, as inhuman, unchristian, unnatural and un-African! Considering the fact that all present anti-homosexual laws in the memberstates of the Commonwealth were non-existent prior to the colonalisation by the British Empire, and initiated by the then British rulers, it is absurd that the now independent countries maintain these oppressive and collonial laws and rules! The countries with the most severe anti-homosexual laws and rules in Africa condemn the collonial era, but maintain the products of that era! How hypocritical these countries are! In fact the UK should condemn the maintaining of these laws, openly and have that condemnation go hand in hand with punishments, for instance withholding subsidies from those countries, or limit their influence on decisions reached by the Commonwealth! Take voting rights away is a way to force the countries to change the policies!

Leave a Reply

Screenshots from video of Nigerian pastor humiliated by homophobes. His face and genitals have been obscured in these images to spare him from further humiliation.

Gay pastor in Nigeria stripped naked by homophobes

Trinidad President Paula-Mae Weekes (Photo courtesy of The West Indian)

Trinidad president urges calm after gay-rights victory