A large majority of Commonwealth states still have laws making gay acts a criminal offence, long after homosexual law reform in Britain.
Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma has told several hundred people at the Commonwealth People’s Forum in Perth that the Commonwealth is about democracy, development and diversity.
“This includes a clear commitment to tolerance, respect and understanding,” he told the group.
“This means we embrace difference, and that includes sexual identity. Discrimination and criminalisation on the grounds of sexual orientation is opposed to our values and I have had occasion to refer to this in the context of our law-related conferences.”
The comments come the day before CHOGM and follow hot on the heels of those by gay retired Australian High Court judge Michael Kirby, who said anti-gay laws are hampering efforts to combat the spread of HIV. He is a member of Commonwealth advisory body the Eminent Persons Group which has recommended that Commonwealth countries repeal legislation criminalising homosexuality.
Following intense lobbying, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has said that he will call for an end to the laws criminalising homosexuality at CHOGM. The Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has also said he will support the call, while British Prime Minister David Cameron has previously expressed support for moves that would improve lgbt rights in the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth is a grouping of independent states, many of which were former British colonies.