Theresa May urges Commonwealth to end 'legacy of discrimination' against homosexuality
Theresa May has challenged Commonwealth nations to ease anti-gay laws, as she revealed her “deep regret” at the UK having imposed them around the world.
In a dramatic intervention, the Prime Minister took aim at countries which continue to enforce draconian rules and said nobody should “face persecution or discrimination because of who they are or who they love”.
The UK was instrumental in imposing the rules in Commonwealth states during the colonial era, with some 37 of the countries still imposing anti-gay laws.
Campaigners argue more than 100 million gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are still being treated as criminals around the Commonwealth, despite the UK itself liberalising its approach.
The Government faced a backlash in February for refusing to intervene when Bermuda repealed same-sex marriage legislation.
But addressing Commonwealth nations today, Mrs May urged them to ensure their traditions are “consistent with equality” and pledged UK support to change their rules.
"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,” she declared at a plenary forum of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London.
"As the United Kingdom's Prime Minister I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.
"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.”
She said there had been “welcome progress” in recent years but insisted there “remains much to do”.
“Nobody should face persecution or discrimination because of who they are or who they love,” the Prime Minister argued.
“And the UK stands ready to support any Commonwealth member wanting to reform outdated legislation that makes such discrimination possible. Because the world has changed.”