Protesters in London Took to the Streets Demanding LGBT Decriminalization by the Commonwealth
On April 19, hundreds of LGBTQ activists protested at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth Headquarters on Pall Mall in London. Following a week of protests, they were demanding decriminalization of homosexuality in 36 of the 53 Commonwealth nations where it’s still outlawed, and they condemned a lack of leadership by Commonwealth heads of government who refused to discuss the persecution of millions of LGBTQ people living within their borders. Many LGBTQ people from across the world participated in the Commonwealth protest series of events, including some who have been driven from their home countries following violence or persecution because of their sexuality or gender identity.
Commonwealth protest organizer Peter Thatchell says, “The Commonwealth is a bastion of homophobia. Seventy percent of the member states have anti-LGBT+ laws and fail to protect LGBTs against discrimination and hate crime. The biennial Commonwealth summit has for six decades refused to debate, let alone support, LGBT+ equality. This year is no different. Once again, LGBT+ rights have been excluded from the leader’s agenda. We’re saying to the Commonwealth, time’s up on blocking debate. Time’s up on homophobic criminalization, discrimination and violence.”
These laws are the legacy of British colonialism and have a direct impact on LGBTQ people around the globe. In nine commonwealth countries, life imprisonment is the punishment for gay sex, and in parts of Nigeria and Pakistan LGBTQ people can be put to death.
Abbey, a Commonwealth protest attendee who escaped Uganda, says, “I came from hell, with cigarette burns on both my palms and on my legs, scars on my face from the constant beating. I went through every kind of human degradation.”
Last week LGBTQ campaigners delivered a petition to Commonwealth leaders bearing 104,115 signatures. The petition urged Commonwealth leaders to:
Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Tom Daley sent a message of support to the protest: “Shockingly, half the countries in the world that criminalize homosexuality are in the Commonwealth, which is why I am fully supportive of the Peter Tatchell Foundation and others who are trying to correct this terrible injustice.”