Leading British LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has urged the Commonwealth to recommend that all its member nations decriminalise homosexuality.
“Commonwealth law ministers should reconsider and approve recommendations for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in all Commonwealth member states when they meet in Sydney from 11 to 14 July,” said Tatchell.
He noted that, last October, senior law officials from Commonwealth countries refused to endorse a paper from the Commonwealth Lawyers Association which set out the case for the decriminalisation of same-sex relations throughout the Commonwealth.
More than 40 Commonwealth nations – an association of 54 countries, nearly all of them former British colonies – currently criminalise same-sex relationships with lengthy jail terms. They comprise over half of the world’s countries that continue to outlaw homosexuality.
In Bangladesh, Guyana, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Uganda, Barbados and Tanzania the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
“There is an urgent need for LGBT activists and human rights defenders in Commonwealth countries to lobby their law ministers and the Commonwealth Law Ministers meeting in Sydney. We want the law ministers to reconsider the document and to recommend the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships in all Commonwealth member states.
“Decriminalisation is consistent with the Commonwealth’s professed commitment to human rights, equality and non-discrimination – and with international humanitarian law,” said Tatchell.
In May, Tatchell described the Commonwealth as a bastion of global homophobia and accused Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma “of a systematic, persistent and wilful failure to condemn homophobic discrimination and violence.”
“This silence shows the true face of the Commonwealth: a bastion of homophobic persecution, collusion and appeasement,” he said.
South Africa was a founding member of the Commonwealth, left in 1961 and rejoined in 1994.