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GAY rights activists gathered outside Westminster Abbey yesterday to demand action in Commonwealth countries.
They sang and chanted as Elizabeth Windsor and high commissioners met to mark Commonwealth Day.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and gay people from across the Commonwealth, some of who had fled persecution, attended the vigil.
Mr Tatchell said: “In 60 years of Commonwealth summits, LGBT+ issues have never been discussed by leaders, not even once.”
He said that he and his fellow activists were committed to ensuring that LGBT+ rights become the dominant issue of the summit, even if the leaders seem “determined to keep it off the agenda.”
Mr Tatchell asked: “Surely in 2018, as London plays host to the summit, we can at least have a discussion with the Commonwealth heads of government?"
Between 100 and 200 million gay people are persecuted and treated as criminals in 70 per cent of the member nations.
Of the 53 Commonwealth countries, 37 criminalise homosexually. Gay people face life imprisonment in nine of the countries, and the death penalty in two.
“The Commonwealth is a homophobic institution. It's a bastion of anti-LGBT prejudice,” Mr Tatchell insisted.
“This is a complete violation of the Commonwealth charter, which pledges these countries will uphold human rights for all their Commonwealth citizens.”
Alluding to the organisation’s roots, Mr Tatchell said: “Nearly all the anti-gay laws that exist in Commonwealth countries were originally imposed by Britain during the colonial era.
“It’s now time those independent nations scrap those colonial laws.”
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