Amber Rudd announces major fund to help end anti-gay laws in Commonwealth countries

Amber Rudd

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The UK is to spend more than £5m to encourage Commonwealth countries to reform laws that discriminate against LGBT people and women.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the plan at a gathering of equality activists in parliament during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London.

36 of 53 member states still criminalise being gay with an estimated 100 million LGBT people directly affected.

Echoing a speech by Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this week, Rudd condemned Britain’s history of exporting discriminatory laws to former colonies and called for the UK to support a change in attitudes.

Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd leaves 10 Downing Street after a pre-budget meeting of the cabinet in London, on November 22, 2017. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will present the government's annual Autumn budget to Parliament later on November 22. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd (Getty)

“The anti-LGBT laws in some Commonwealth countries are a legacy of Britain’s colonial past,” she told the event. “The UK Prime Minister made clear on Tuesday that we have some deep regrets about Britain’s historical legacy of anti-gay laws across the Commonwealth.”

Speaking to supporters of the Kaleidoscope Trust, a charity that campaigns to end anti-LGBT laws in Commonwealth nations, she said: “We recognise our social responsibility, as well as being the right think to do, to promote LGBT equality in the UK and in the Commonwealth.

“We’re going to stand ready to support any Commonwealth member wanting to reform their outdated legislation that makes discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity possible.

Queen Elizabeth II gives a speech at the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) (Getty)

“I’m pleased to announce we will provide £5.6m for a programme to support LGBT and gender equality, working with oranisations including the Kaleidoscope Trust, the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Human Dignity Trust and Sisters for Change to support the reform of the laws.

“Getting the laws right is such an important part of ending the sort of discrimination that we have seen.”

The announcement comes after more than 100,000 people signed a petition for the laws to be reformed.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell (Getty)

Protests have taken place in recent months highlighting the ongoing injustices in 36 Commonwealth countries.

During a seven-minute speech to activists, the Home Secretary added that the UK’s turnaround in attitudes since the 1950s showed that change could be achieved.

“When we look particularly at equal marriage, where some African church representatives are so against them, that is a recent cultural change in many African countries, which gives me hope that we can help change it,” Rudd said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty)

On Tuesday, May led calls for more progressive LGBT laws, telling CHOGM: “I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.

“As the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, I deeply regret the fact that such laws were introduced, and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.”

She added: “As a family of nations, we must respect one another’s cultures and traditions, but we must do so in a manner consistent with our common value of equality – a value that is clearly stated in the Commonwealth charter.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Prince Harry attend a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting event (Simon Dawson/Getty)

“Recent years have brought progress. The three nations that have most recently decriminalised same-sex relationships are all Commonwealth members, and since the heads of government last met, the Commonwealth has agreed to accredit its first organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“Yet there remains much to do. Nobody should face discrimination or persecution because of who they are or who they love.”

“The UK stands ready to support any Commonwealth member wanting to reform outdated legislation that makes such discrimination possible because the world has changed,” May added.