Anti Sodomy laws and the Commonwealth
Over the past week the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting took place in the UK, the meeting sets about to discuss trade, environment and human rights throughout its members. The Commonwealth is mostly comprised of former British territories and covers a population of over 2.4 billion people. Of the nations and areas that comprise the group 37 countries have laws in place that criminalise homosexuality.
Of all Britain’s exports into the world anti sodomy laws are some of the most damaging and unfortunately enduring. Whilst LGBT rights have come a long way in the UK, Canada and Australia in other places such as Brunei and parts of Nigeria a person can still be put to death for being gay. In other places such as Uganda homosexuality is illegal, and the media has conducted witch hunts against those who are gay with gay men being killed and lesbians being victims of ‘corrective rape’.
The British Government recently announced that It had set aside a fund of £5 million to help influence women and LGBT rights around the world but one must wonder whether the UK could do more? The British Empire spent hundreds of years exporting homophobia throughout the world and gay rights have only moved in the right trajectory in the last 20 years.
It is no coincidence that counties that the most repressive LGBT laws also have some of the highest HIV rates around the world. In Uganda over 1.4 million people are living with the condition out of a population of 41 million. Laws that punish homosexuality often lead to people not seeking treatment for HIV because they fear how they will be labelled.
The news regarding members of the Commonwealth nations is of course not all negative. As I mentioned before former Commonwealth nations do include Canada and Australia which have some of the strongest LGBT protections in the world. In 2005 Canada was one of the first countries in the world to legalise equal marriage. Only earlier this month a court in Trinidad and Tobago quashed laws criminalising homosexuality as unconstitutional, whilst this is only the small step in a journey on LGBT rights we can only hope that other nations follow suit.
The UK has demonstrated a commitment over the last 10 years to pushing for equality around the world but if the world is to see real change we need to do more. Britain still maintains some of the strongest influence around the world and needs to continue to play a leadership role where terrible human rights abuses take place especially when those human rights abuses are of our own doing.
By Daniel Smith.