London, UK – 28 July 2022
Fifty LGBT+ people from Commonwealth countries protested today as the Queen’s Baton arrived at Aston Hall Birmingham on its final stop before entering Alexander Stadium for the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony this evening.
Calling out state-sanctioned homophobia in the 35 Commonwealth member states that criminalise homosexuality, they displayed a large banner with the words: “Abolish anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth.”
“Most of those protesting had fled homophobic persecution in Commonwealth countries. Some had been arrested, beaten and driven out of their schools, jobs and homes. They are now refugees in the UK,” said protest organiser, Peter Tatchell.
“The Commonwealth Games organisers are saying that the competitions are inclusive. But a known LGBT+ athlete is more likely to be jailed than selected for the national team of their country in nearly two-thirds of Commonwealth nations where same-sex relations are illegal.”
The protest was coordinated by the Peter Tatchell Foundation, with the backing of the Out and Proud African LGBTI group.
Olympic and Commonwealth gold medallist, Tom Daley, has joined with the Peter Tatchell Foundation to support the protest and condemn the persecution of LGBT+ people in 62% of Commonwealth countries.
Tom Daley said:
“Thirty-five out of the 56 Commonwealth member states criminalise same-sex relations. That’s half the countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. Seven Commonwealth nations have a maximum penalty of life imprisonment under laws imposed by Britain in the 19th century when it was the colonial power.
“Every single person should be free to live their true authentic self, no matter where they are born or who they are. We must all keep working until everyone is free and equal.”
Peter Tatchell, director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, added:
“In parts of one Commonwealth country, northern Nigeria, there is the death penalty for homosexuality and three alleged gay men have been recently sentenced to death by stoning after an unfair trial.
“The criminalisation of LGBT+ people is in defiance of the Commonwealth Charter which these countries have signed and promised to uphold. It pledges equal rights and non-discrimination to all Commonwealth citizens.
“The Commonwealth is a homophobic institution. It is a bastion of anti-LGBT+ laws, discrimination and hate crime. LGBT+ issues have never been discussed, not even once, by Commonwealth leaders at any of their summits over the last three decades.
“The Commonwealth Secretariat colludes with homophobia. It has sold out LGBT+ communities across the Commonwealth. The Secretary General, Baroness Scotland, has shown no leadership; failing to speak out publicly against the current intensified persecution of LGBTs in Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and Uganda,” said Mr Tatchell.
LGBT+ campaigners are urging the Commonwealth to:
- Decriminalise same-sex relations
- Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- Enforce laws against threats and violence, to protect LGBT+ people from hate crime
- Consult and dialogue with LGBT+ organisations
“I have tried for 30 years to get the Commonwealth leader’s summit to discuss the criminalisation of LGBTs by 62% of the member states. They refuse and also reject dialogue with their local LGBT+ communities,” added Mr Tatchell.
“Commonwealth countries account for more than half of the world’s 68 nations where same-sex relations are illegal. Anti-LGBT+ discrimination and hate crime are widespread and unchecked in most Commonwealth countries.”
“Millions of LGBT+ people living in Commonwealth nations have no legal protection against discrimination in employment, housing, education, health care and the provision of good and services. This makes a mockery of Commonwealth values and the human rights principles of the Commonwealth Charter,” concluded Mr Tatchell.