Commonwealth secretary general speaks out against homophobia following Tatchell’s criticisms

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Commonwealth secretary-general, Kamalesh Sharma, has written an article in the Nairobi Star speaking out against homophobia.

Peter Tatchell said: “His article appears to be in direct response to my critique of his long silence and inaction on LGBT human rights, which was published in the Guardian on 17 May.”

In his article, written on International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), Mr Tatchell said: “The Commonwealth is a bastion of global homophobia, often bucking the worldwide trend towards sexual orientation equality, with increased state-sanctioned threats and repression.”

He also added that the vast majority of the Commonwealth’s anti-gay laws were the “poisonous” legacy of British colonialism, and originally imposed in the 19th century.

In the response piece, Mr Sharma wrote: “I have consistently made it clear publicly that we deplore hate crimes of any nature and the vilification and targeting of gay and lesbian people runs counter to the fundamental values of the Commonwealth, which include non-discrimination on any grounds.

“I also recognised the Delhi High Court for its landmark decision to decriminalise homosexual acts. This addressed a legal legacy of the British colonial era that continues to affect more than three-quarters of Commonwealth countries long after Britain itself has moved on.”

He continued: “If attitudes are to change, if homophobia is to be challenged – as it should – and if laws on homosexuality are to be reformed the best hope lies in democratic and legal processes.”

Mr Tatchell said it was “Small but notable progress.”

He added:  “I plan to press Mr Sharma to meet me and other LGBT activists. We’ve heard his words, now we want action.”