U.K. Prime Minister Acknowledges That Colonial Influence Is Still Hurting LGBT People Around The World

U.K. Prime Minister Acknowledges That Colonial Influence Is Still Hurting LGBT People Around The World

At a recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged that the nation’s colonial-era anti-LGBT laws are still hurting queer communities around the world.

May offered her personal regrets about the harmful legacy of British colonial rule: “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 death that persists today.”

The apology comes more than a month after Trinidad and Tobago, a Commonwealth nation, decriminalized homosexuality in a landmark legal case. Prior to the ruling, Trinidad was one of 10 Caribbean nations—all of which still belong to the British Commonwealth—that have laws criminalizing gay sex on the books.

It isn’t the first time May has expressed personal qualms with the U.K.’s problematic history as an imperial power. At an April CHOGM gathering, she called upon Commonwealth nations to overhaul outdated anti-sodomy laws, insisting “nobody should face discrimination or persecution because of who they are or who they love.” Her call was met with backlash from certain Commonwealth leaders, who cited religious reasons for barring homosexuality. Just this week, an editorial in the Ghanaian Times, a state-run publication from the former Commonwealth country, called for locals to “unite to reject LGBT [people.]”

To date, more than 70 countries around the world, including nations in Africa, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East, and the Caribbean, have anti-sodomy laws in place. And at least 37 of them—more than half of the 53 active Commonwealth nations—are or were subjected to English colonial rule in some capacity.

LGBT advocates say these laws aren’t just archaic, they’re actually harmful: Anti-sodomy laws can prevent queer people from reaching out to police or HIV/AIDS agencies in times of crisis.

In certain Muslim-majority nations, these laws are literally a matter of life and death, carrying a death penalty under Sharia law.

Samantha Manzella is a writer and copy editor based out of the Hudson Valley. You can find her writing in a coffeehouse or searching Insta for the latest tattoo artist to hit the scene.