LGBTQ+ protest as King Charles arrives at Commonwealth Day service

Graham Robson March 14, 2023

Forty, mostly African, LGBT+ protesters shouted “Stop Commonwealth homophobia“ as King Charles and Commonwealth leaders arrived at Westminster Abbey for the annual Commonwealth Day service.

They were demanding the repeal of anti-LGBTQ+ laws and “protection, not persecution.”

Thirty-two out of 56 Commonwealth member states criminalise same-sex relations, in defiance of the “toothless” Commonwealth Charter. Seven have life imprisonment.

The protest, which coincided with Uganda‘s legislators proposing a “vicious” new Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was supported by Out & Proud African LGBTI, African Equality Foundation and the Peter Tatchell Foundation – and was led by Ugandan LGBTQ+ people. Most of those present had fled homophobic persecution in Commonwealth countries.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill stipulates:

  • Ten years jail for male & female homosexuality or for professing a LGBTQ+ identity.
  • Ten years jail for touching with homosexual intent or claiming to be married to same-sex partner.
  • Two to ten years jail for attempting homosexuality or having gay sex while HIV+.
  • One to seven years jail for providing premises to LGBTs.
  • Two to five years jail for promoting, advocating, funding or sponsoring homosexuality.
  • Two years jail for aiding & counselling homosexuality or conspiring to commit homosexuality.

In addition, LGBTQ+ people must pay compensation to their “victims.” Persons charged with aggravated same-sex offences must undergo forced HIV tests.

Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said: “The Commonwealth is a total sham for failing to speak out against the 32 Commonwealth nations that are allowed to terrorise LGBTQ+ people with impunity. The Uganda Bill is one of the most sweeping & draconian homophobic laws ever considered by any regime in the world. It would outlaw almost every aspect of LGBTQ+ existence, including LGBTQ+ identity, advocacy, funding and organisation.

“The bill violates Sections 2 and 4 of the Commonwealth Charter. It also breaches Article 21 of the Uganda constitution & Articles 2 and 3 of the African Charter of Human & People’s Rights – both of which guarantee equal treatment and prohibit discrimination.”

Abbey Kiwanuka, a Ugandan activist with of the Out & Proud African LGBTI group, said: “Contrary to what the proposers of this bill claim, no one is recruiting anyone into homosexuality. Politicians in Uganda scapegoat LGBTQ+ people and use homosexuality as a pretext to divert people from questioning their failed policies. It’s high time Ugandans woke up and realised that homosexuality is not the cause of people’s suffering. The problem is the rotten, corrupt system that has undermined and deterred the country’s development. We are ready to fight this bill, and victory will be ours.”

Edwin Sesange of the African Equality Foundation, also from Uganda, added: “A peaceful common future for the Commonwealth should be built on respect for human rights for everyone, including for LGBTQ+ people. This cannot happen when LGBTQ+ people are being persecuted. I call on the Commonwealth leadership to speak out and hold countries like Uganda accountable. They must respect human rights and uphold the values of the Commonwealth Charter. Uganda is exercising impunity and immunity with its persecution of LGBTQ+ people. This must stop.”