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Protesters campaign against homophobia on Commonwealth Day

PICTURED: The protest moments before HM the Queen arrived at Westminster Abbey

80 LGBT+ rights defenders protested yesterday (Mar 12), as Her Majesty the Queen, Prime Minister Theresa May and High Commissioners celebrated Commonwealth Day 2018 at Westminster Abbey.

The protestors demanded decriminalisation in 37 of the 53 Commonwealth nations that still outlaw homosexuality. Nine countries have life imprisonment for gay sex and in parts of two countries, Nigeria and Pakistan, there is the death penalty.

The protest at Westminster Abbey, as dignitaries arrived, included LGBT+ people from across the Commonwealth and was coordinated by the Peter Tatchell Foundation working with 14 other UK-based human rights groups.

Protest organiser Peter Tatchell said: “LGBT+ issues have never been discussed, not even once, by Commonwealth leaders at any of their summits over the last six decades.​

“Surely, in 2018 the Commonwealth heads of government should address the state-sanctioned persecution of more than 100 million LGBT+ Commonwealth citizens,” he added. ​

The protest against Commonwealth homophobia was joined by representatives from 15 campaign groups and Commonwealth LGBT+ citizens who have been driven from their home countries after often violent persecution because of their sexuality or gender identity.

The protestors key demands from the Commonwealth:

- Decriminalise same-sex relations

- Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

- Enforce laws against threats and violence, to protect LGBT+ people from hate crimes

- Consult and dialogue with national LGBT+ organisations

Peter Tatchell with Ugandan LGBT+ activist Hamimah Minah and Edwin Sesange

Next month, campaigners will hand a petition to the Commonwealth’s Secretary General, and it currently has over 90,000 signatures and is growing. The petition is timed to coincide with the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which, this year, which is being held in London and Windsor.

“I have tried for 30 years to get the Commonwealth leader’s summit to discuss the criminalisation of LGBTs by 70% of member states. They refuse and most also reject dialogue with their local LGBT+ movements,” states Tatchell.

"Commonwealth countries account for half of the world’s 72 nations where same-sex relations are illegal. Hate crimes against LGBT+ people are widespread and unchecked in these countries.”

“More than 100 million LGBT+ people living in Commonwealth counties 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.”

“The London summit is an opportunity to debate this issue and hear the voices of LGBT+ people from across the Commonwealth. It is time to end the unabated persecution."

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