Commonwealth summit refuses to discuss LGBT+ equality

35 out of 54 member states still criminalise homosexuality


London, UK – 23 June 2022

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda, on 24 and 25 June, will yet again fail to even discuss – let alone support – the human rights LGBT+ people, which are routinely violated in nearly 70% of the member states.

Thirty-five of the 54 member countries of the Commonwealth association of nations, mostly former British colonies, criminalise same-sex relations. Seven have life imprisonment and in northern Nigeria there is the death penalty.

This is in defiance of the Commonwealth Charter which these countries have signed. It pledges equal rights and non-discrimination to all Commonwealth citizens.

For over 30 years, human rights defender Peter Tatchell has lobbied CHOGM to at least discuss the persecution of LGBTs and allow a LGBT+ person address the assembled leaders. Every CHOGM for three decades, they have turned down all such requests.

Mr Tatchell said:

“The Commonwealth is a homophobic institution. It is a bastion of anti-LGBT+ laws, discrimination and hate crime. LGBT+ issues have never been discussed, not even once, by Commonwealth leaders at any of their summits over the last three decades.​”

“Surely, in 2022, Commonwealth heads of government should address the state-sanctioned persecution of millions of LGBT+ Commonwealth citizens.

 “Most of these anti-gay laws were imposed by Britain during the colonial era in the nineteenth century. They are not authentic indigenous laws. Now that these nations are independent, they should be repealed as a continuation of the de-colonisation process.

 “The Commonwealth Secretariat is an abject failure. It has sold out LGBT+ communities across the Commonwealth. The Secretary General, Baroness Scotalnd, has shown no leadership; failing to speak out publicly against the intensified persecution of LGBTs in Ghana, Cameroon and Uganda,” said Mr Tatchell.  ​

LGBT+ campaigners are urging the Commonwealth to:

  • 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 LGBT+ organisations

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

“Commonwealth countries account for more than half of the world’s 69 nations where same-sex relations are illegal. Hate crimes against LGBT+ people are widespread and unchecked in these countries.”

 “Millions of 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,” concluded Mr Tatchell.