Homosexuality remains a crime in 40 of the 53 nations that make up the British Commonwealth. In some of those countries, the "crime" may be punishable by death. It's for those reasons LGBT groups across the United Kingdom are outraged that the criminalization of gays was not discussed at the Commonwealth's most recent meeting, which ended in Malta Sunday, according to London's Independent.
"LGBT groups were furious that the issue was not on the agenda for this weekend’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta, even though consensual homosexual activity is still only legal in 13 of the 53 countries who are taking part," the paper reported.
More than 90 percent of LGBT Commonwealth citizens live in jurisdictions where they are treated as criminals or suffer discrimination, according to a recent report by the Kaleidoscope Trust, a group that fights for LGBT rights across the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth’s newly appointed top diplomat, Baroness Patricia Scotland, hopes to convince Commonwealth nations to alter their discriminatory policies. However, it may be a long uphill battle. The next Commonwealth meeting is in Britain in 2018. Scotland outlined her strategy to the Independent:
"What we have to accept is that this [decriminalizing homosexuality] is something that will depend on consensus. We do not have the right or opportunity to force states, but we can start a really good conversation to work with them so they understand the economic issues in relations to human rights and make the change. The one thing I have to do is to build consensus and trust and I can hope it will [be on the next Commonwealth Meeting agenda]."
Scotland herself holds dual citizenship in Britain and Dominica, a Caribbean nation where LGBT people may be pelted with stones in unprovoked attacks, according to testimony gathered by Kaleidoscope. In Nigeria, stoning to death for the "crime" of homosexuality is a sanctioned punishment in certain states, the paper reported. This same punishment is being introduced in Brunei, where a civil servant was fined £470 this year for cross-dressing in public, according to the Independent.
For the first time in its history, the Commonwealth People’s Forum, where citizens air concerns, was to feature LGBTI activists in dialogue with policy makers to discuss what might be done to protect the rights of LGBTI people, according to Kaleidoscope. However, the Independent reports that issues given most prominence during the meeting were not related to the plight of LGBT citizens.
Tim Farron, leader of Britain's Liberal Democratic Party, told the paper that the treatment of LGBT citizens should have received greater prominence in Malta. "The Government should have used the meeting in Malta to press commonwealth countries to live up to our collective values. We must be a beacon of human rights, tolerance and the defense of minorities. The British government must use our strong position to press the case for better LGBT rights in other Commonwealth nations,” he said.
Apart from the 40 British Commonwealth nations, at least 36 other countries have outlawed being gay. Click here for a list from the website 76 Crimes.
Watch a video by the Kaleidoscope Trust addressing the treatment of LGBT Commonwealth citizens, below.