Lewis Brooks at the Royal Commonwealth Society looks at the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in the Commonwealth and discusses progress in building a more modern, inclusive Commonwealth approach to the issue.
During the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Trinidad and Tobago, much of the media coverage was dominated by concerns over the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens of the Commonwealth. It has also been discussed on the sidelines of CHOGMs since Malta 2005 through the media and civil society forums. Today 40 of the 53 members of the Commonwealth criminalise consensual same-sex activity between adults in some way. Additionally, in numerous countries, access to the rights enjoyed by the majority of citizens have been denied to people identified as transgender or ‘third gender’.
In the 19th century, the British Empire imposed vaguely worded laws criminalising consensual same-sex activity in many of its colonies, thus institutionalising discrimination against numerous colonial subjects and cultures. The Indian Penal Code was the most famous example of a law created by the colonisers and subsequently replicated across the Empire to ensure compliance with the moral codes of 19th century Britain. Today, these same laws remain on the statute books of many Commonwealth members, and are now used to discriminate against many LGBT citizens and to deny them access to a range of services and rights…
*Statistics within article correct at original publication date of CHOGM 2015 Report.
Royal Commonwealth Society