36 of the 53 Commonwealth member states still have laws that criminalise same-sex activity in some way. Discriminatory laws create an enabling environment for violence and persecution of LGBTI people by state and non-state actors. LGBTI people across the Commonwealth face discrimination, persecution, violence and obstacles in accessing rights, and essential services including sexual health services.
Some 92% of Commonwealth citizens live in jurisdictions where same-sex activity is a criminal offence. The majority of these countries draw upon colonial-era anti-sodomy laws. While discrimination against LGBTI people is a global problem, the colonial origin of these laws represents a unique problem for the Commonwealth. Both the enforcement of laws and the experiences of Commonwealth LGBTI citizens vary from country to country.
The Commonwealth prides itself on its shared values from the rule of law to respect for human rights as well as a political approach that emphasises diplomacy, consensus building and formal equality in state membership. The legal, social and economic stigmatisation of the Commonwealth’s LGBTI citizens is clearly contrary to these shared values.