Prince William pledges his support for LGBT rights on Commonwealth Day

The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, has voiced his support for LGBT equality as he met with a representative of a rights group alongside his father Prince Charles.

Royals including the Duke of Cambridge, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall last night attended a reception held by Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland to mark Commonwealth Day.

At the event they met with representatives of various groups affiliated with the Commonwealth, including a representative of the Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) and Kaleidoscope Trust.

37 of 53 countries in the Commonwealth continue to criminalise consensual same-sex acts, primarily under laws that were imposed during the British colonial era and never fully repealed – but Prince William did not hesitate speaking out about equality.

At the event, Prince William said he is a supporter for LGBT rights. Discussing the work of TCEN, the royal added that he does raise LGBT rights when he is travelling in other countries, and also vowed to do so in future.

Prince Charles also expressed his support.

The Commonwealth Equality Network, which comprises of 46 organisations in 42 countries working collectively to champion equality and human rights for LGBT people, last year became the first LGBT organisation to have official accreditation from the Commonwealth.

The Kaleidoscope Trust works to uphold the human rights of LGBT people in countries where they face discrimination.

Paul Dillane, who attended the reception on behalf of TCEN and the Kaleidoscope Trust, told PinkNews: “On behalf of Kaleidoscope Trust and The Commonwealth Equality Network, I was grateful for the opportunity to meet the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, and discuss the situation for LGBT people across the Commonwealth.

“In April, we will host the largest contingent of LGBT activists from across the Commonwealth to participate in the Commonwealth Summit in London. This is an unprecedented opportunity for activists to engage with leaders, officials and parliamentarians to champion equality for LGBT people around the world.

“No person should face discrimination or violence on account of their sexual orientation and gender identity. We are grateful to Prince William for his words of encouragement and support.”

In total 37 of the 53 Commonwealth member states criminalise homosexuality – from India to Barbados, Sri Lanka to Tonga.

(Photo by Jeff Spicer – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Over the past few years activists have made a concerted push to get the Commonwealth to address LGBT issues, but they have been met with resistance from a number of countries with anti-LGBT laws.

Presciently, the Queen’s Commonwealth Day message states: “There is a very special value in the insights we gain through the Commonwealth connection; shared inheritances help us overcome difference so that diversity is a cause for celebration rather than division.”

The issue is expected to be raised at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will take place in April.

In its Commonwealth Day message, the Canadian government emphasised: “As a proud member of the Commonwealth, Canada works with 52 other countries around the world to advance and uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law, all enshrined in our Commonwealth Charter.

“These values are critical for the development and prosperity of the Commonwealth’s member states and the well-being of its 2.4 billion people.

“At the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, hosted this year in the United Kingdom, Canada will further advance priorities that can benefit the diverse countries and peoples that make up the Commonwealth.

“We will advocate for greater respect for the rights of all LGBTQ2 people, so those who discriminate are reminded that human rights are universal and indivisible and apply equally to all.”

Elsewhere on Commonwealth Day, 80 LGBT activists from around the world joined a protest of a service attended by the Queen – calling for the UK to face up to its anti-LGBT Colonial past and take a stronger role in challenging anti-gay laws.

The campaigners have called for progress on the issue at CHOGM.

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.”

The protest 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.

Abbey, who escaped Uganda, said he “came from hell, with cigarette burns in both my palms and on my legs, scars on my face which resulted from the constant beating. I went through every kind of human degradation.”

Mr Tatchell added: “I have tried for 30 years to get the Commonwealth leaders’ summit to discuss the criminalisation of LGBTs by 70 percent of member states. They refuse and most also reject dialogue with their local LGBT+ movements.

“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[s] 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.”