Global human rights activists and LGBT community in London launched a robust protest today at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, urging Commonwealth leaders to scrap anti-LGBT laws.
Commonwealth leaders were blasted for refusing to discuss the persecution of at least 100 million LGBT people who live in Commonwealth countries where being gay is a crime.
Protestors also demanded decriminalisation in 36 of the 53 Commonwealth nations that still outlaw homosexuality. Nine of these Commonwealth countries have life imprisonment for gay sex and in parts of two countries, Nigeria and Pakistan, noting LGBT+ people can be put to death in several Commonwealth countries.
The protest outside Marlborough House, the Commonwealth HQ on Pall Mall in London, included LGBT+ people from across the Commonwealth and many escaping persecution for being LGBTI.
Protesters relayed their stories.
Hope Espoir, from Cameroon: “When I was 18 I was caught with my girlfriend, beaten by neighbours and then arrested by police. My nightmare got worse as I was raped in prison. Upon being released I was forced into marriage with a violent man I did not and could not love, as I couldn’t suppress my sexuality. “Life got better when I fell in love with a local girl but the police came to arrest us one evening. Fortunately, I escaped with my life, but my girlfriend died after being beaten in police custody.”
Abbey, who escaped Uganda: “I came from hell, with cigarette burns in both my palms and on my legs, scars on my face which resulted from the constant beating. I went through every kind of human degradation.”
Peter Tatchell added: “At least 100 million 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.”
Edwin Sesange from the African Equality Foundation said: “It is time these 36 Commonwealth countries accepted their LGBT+ citizens. Homophobia should be expunged from the Commonwealth. Anti-gay laws in Commonwealth countries are mostly the result of colonialism. They should be scrapped.”