Today (17th May) is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB). As part of our current theme Sharing Common Wealth? we’re taking a look at the history of LGBTI+ rights in the Commonwealth, and sharing solidarity with people standing up for Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights today.
35 of the 54 Commonwealth countries criminalise LGBTI+ people, often using laws that were imposed by the British Empire.
Indigenous cultures across the Commonwealth have rich and varied understandings of gender and sexuality, which were suppressed under colonial “decency” and “morality” laws.
But LGBTI+ rights are now sometimes stereotyped as a ‘western’ idea being imposed by Britain (even as transphobia grows here).
One set of laws criminalising LGBTI+ people was imposed across the empire in the 1860s.
In Ghana, this erased traditional understandings of gender and sexuality, including the idea of ‘”heavy souls“ attracted to women, and “light souls” attracted to men.
These homophobic laws were carried forward into independence, and LGBTI+ Ghanians have been standing up for their rights, making gains, but also facing opposition. Now a group of Ghanian MPs are trying to introduce a law that will ban advocating for LGBTI+ rights and encourage ‘conversion’ practices.
The group LGBT+ Rights Ghana are championing the fight for freedom, and together with international organisation All Out are campaigning against this bill. You can listen to Voices of Ghana – a podcast in which LGBT+ Ghanaians talk about their lives in Ghana, the things that they find meaningful, and how their lives will change if the anti-LGBT Bill is passed:
More widely, The Commonwealth Equality Network works to uphold the human rights of LGBTI+ people across the Commonwealth.
And here in Birmingham, our Gay Village is preparing to welcome visitors from across the Commonwealth during the Games, providing a safe space for LGBTI+ athletes and spectators at Pride House.
And of course everyone is welcome to drop into Peace Hub to explore these issues and get ideas for action over a friendly cuppa.
Image: poster for IDAHOTB 2022, from May17.org
We are highlighting this as we feel that it is a positive action that fits with our current theme. It should not be inferred that any of the organisations mentioned have endorsed Peace Hub in any way.