The Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the Human Rights Consortium of the School of Advanced Study, University of London today published the first book to focus on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) and all non-heterosexual people in the Commonwealth.
While human rights in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity are at last reaching the heart of global debates, 78 states worldwide continue to criminalise same-sex sexual behaviour. Due to the legal legacies of the British Empire, 42 of these – more than half – are in the Commonwealth of Nations. In recent years many Commonwealth states have seen the emergence of new sexual nationalisms, leading to increased enforcement of colonial sodomy laws against men, new criminalisations of sex between women and discrimination against transgender people.
Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in The Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change challenges these developments and offers the most internationally extensive analysis to date of the global struggle for decriminalisation of same-sex sexual behaviour and relationships.
Co-edited by Corinne Lennox (lecturer in human rights at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and associate director of the Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study, University of London) and Matthew Waites (senior lecturer in sociology at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow), the book provides the first quantitative analysis of legal change related to sexual orientation and gender identity across all of the Commonwealth’s 54 Member States.
The volume includes 13 peer-reviewed chapters by academics and activists presenting analyses of struggles for decriminalisation and change in 16 national contexts covering all regions of the Commonwealth, including the UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Uganda, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Bahamas. It also offers a unique comparative analysis across the Commonwealth focusing on learning lessons from states in the global South where decriminalisation of same-sex behaviour has been achieved.
Co-editor Corinne Lennox said: ‘We hope this book will prove a useful resource to activists, academics and policy-makers to find constructive ways of eliminating human rights violations against people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Many states, such as India, South Africa and the Bahamas, have already made important changes in the laws that previously criminalised same-sex sexual relations, and activists in these countries are working in innovative ways to see protections implemented effectively.’
Co-editor Matthew Waites commented: ‘This book gives voice to activists and movements from states in Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia and Southeast Asia. It offers the most internationally extensive analysis to date of the global struggle for decriminalisation of same-sex sexual behaviour, and the first systematic statistical and qualitative analysis of legal changes related to sexual orientation and gender identity across Commonwealth states. It is also a book to enable everyone think in new ways, so we can understand perspectives from the global South and hence develop new strategies and priorities for governments, NGOs and global queer politics. Most importantly it is free online for everyone – an essential resource for everybody interested in public debates and activism concerned with human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity. After attending the inspiring Canadian launch at Toronto Pride on 26 June, with activists from Botswana and Uganda, I am excited that the London launch will focus on activist contributions from states including Uganda and Jamaica.’
The editors, together with a number of contributors, will speak at an event marking the UK launch of the book on 5 July in Senate House, University of London at 17:30. Registration to attend this event is required. Please contact the Human Rights Consortium at HRC@sas.ac.uk or on +44 (0)20 7862 8853.
Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for decriminalisation and change is available in paperback and ebook formats. Individual chapters are available to download free as PDF files. For further information or to purchase the book, visit commonwealth.sas.ac.uk/publications/house-publications/lgbt-rights-commonwealth