Campaigners hand in petition to Commonwealth HQ demanding Britain apologises for exporting homophobia

A petition demanding that Britain apologises for exporting homophobia to Commonwealth nations is being handed in at the Commonwealth Headquarters in London on Wednesday.

The petition, which has garnered 104,000 signatures, will be handed in at the Commonwealth HQ in a battle to get the group’s political leaders to discuss LGBT+ rights for the first time at a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which is being held in the UK this year.

Under the hashtag #CommonEquality, Commonwealth LGBT+ campaigners are demanding that the 53 countries meeting on 16-20 April CHOGM make this the year that they discuss the disparate LGBT+ rights in the likes of Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya – and that Britain apologises for introducing homophobia into these nations.

“We have a problem in countries like Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya where there is a myth that homosexuality was imported from Western countries, which is wrong,” Director of the African Equality Foundation Edwin Sesange told PinkNews.

Edwin Sesange

Edwin Sesange

“This petition is putting that back to Britain and the Commonwealth to put things right. It’s not that the west introduced homosexuality, it’s that they introduced homophobia. It’s entirely up to them to get rid of these roles and start discussing them,” he added.

Sesange said that Britain doesn’t just need to apologise because it is hosting this year’s CHOGM, but because the ‘myth’ that the West introduced homosexuality rather than homophobia is still highly believed in some African nations.

“People in those countries have been deceived by anti-gay people into thinking that the West introduced homosexuality,” said Sesange.

“What we don’t want Britain to do is overlook that. What Britain needs to do is apologise first, and let these people know that they are the ones who created these laws.”

“Surprisingly, in the 60 years since its existence, they have never discussed LGBTQI rights. The Commonwealth does deal in controversial issues – it got involved with the Apartheid – so we strongly believe that the Commonwealth is capable of dealing with homophobia in these countries.”

In a speech at the PinkNews Awards, Prime Minister Theresa May said that “anti-LGBT laws in Commonwealth countries are a legacy of Britain’s colonial past.”

Theresa May at the PinkNews Awards

“On this 50th anniversary of decriminalisation reminds us of the power we have to make a change,” she urged.

Sesange is hoping that May will put her best foot forward alongside other leaders and listen to the voices of ordinary LGBT+ people who are being affected by these laws.

“These leaders, and other people present in the Commonwealth meeting, need to hear how these laws are affecting their ordinary citizens. They need to hear from the victims of this, not just from the officials pushing for these laws. We want countries to decriminalise and to introduce anti-discrimination laws.

“Britain plays a major role because it’s the one that introduced these laws. Britain itself needs to apologise, but the Commonwealth as a whole needs to look at our demands,” added the campaigner.

At the time of publication, the petition has accrued 104,000 supporters. It can be signed here.

“Britain has to make it right so the homophobes no longer push that agenda. The most important thing is to put things right,” concluded Sesange.