British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that she “deeply regrets” Britain’s part in criminalising same-sex relations in its former colonies.
Laws that discriminate against the LGBT+ community, which were passed under British rule, still exist in 37 of the 53 Commonwealth nations, according to the BBC.
May described the laws as “outdated” when speaking at an NGO side event marking the Commonwealth Summit, which is being held in London this week.
“I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country,” she said. “They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. As the UK’s prime minister, I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced, and the legacy of discrimination, violence, and even death that persists today.”
She said that “as a family of nations we must respect one another’s cultures and traditions,” but added that “we must do so in a manner consistent with our common value of equality, a value that is clearly stated in the Commonwealth charter.”
The discriminatory laws, which make same-sex relations taboo, dangerous, and even deadly, affect more than 100 million people across the Commonwealth.
“Nobody should face discrimination and persecution because of who they are or who they love,” continued May.
“The UK stands ready to support any Commonwealth nation wanting to reform outdated legislation that makes such discrimination possible,” she added. “Across the world, discriminatory laws made many years ago continue to affect the lives of many people, criminalising same-sex relations and failing to protect women and girls.”
Belize and the Seychelles are among the nations to have recently cut laws that discriminate against same-sex relations, in 2016.
Leaders from across the Commonwealth are meeting in London this week for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, to address some of the world’s most pressing issues.
In the run-up to the Commonwealth Summit, Global Citizen has been calling on leaders of member states to take action on education, global health, gender equality, nutrition, and more. You can join us by taking action here.