Homosexuality still illegal in 36 Commonwealth countries
by Felicity Collier in central London
HOMOSEXUALITY is still illegal in 36 out of 52 Commonwealth countries, delegates at the annual TUC LGBT conference noted in a motion calling for it to be decriminalised.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised male gay sex in England and Wales.
RMT delegate John Shackleford proposed a motion calling on Commonwealth secretary-general Baroness Scotland to remind the countries where homosexuality remained illegal that they are committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and cannot avoid implementing protections with which they disagree.
The next Commonwealth heads of government meeting is due to take place in Britain next year, and delegates were calling for Baroness Scotland to highlight their commitment to equality and respect “for all without discrimination on any grounds” because they “cannot be implemented selectively.”
Teaching union NASUWT delegate Patrick Pope told the conference that he had been in Uganda in 2013 when a new law against homosexuality was passed.
He said he had to hide his own sexuality after his tour guide declared that he was in favour of introducing the death penalty, in place of life imprisonment, for anyone who is not heterosexual.
In support of the motion, PCS member Saorsa Tweedale questioned the lack of support for LGBT people oppressed and punished by Commonwealth governments.
She added: “We should be working with workers to help them organise themselves,” rather than working with their oppressors.
At the conference, Labour MP Stephen Doughty also highlighted the fact that same-sex marriage remains illegal in several European countries.
The MP for Cardiff South and Penarth called for an end to discrimination worldwide and pledged to continue his parliamentary work in that area.
He is a campaigner against the brutal detention and torture of LGBT citizens in Chechnya.
Noting that it was also the 40th anniversary of the first TUC conference for LGBT rights, Mr Doughty added that he would oppose any attempts by the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party, which is propping up the Tory minority government, to undermine existing LGBT rights in Britain.