Following the Commonwealth Secretary General’s expression of support for gay rights, David Cameron has now restated his own concern that countries in receipt of UK aid should ‘adhere to proper human rights’. This BBC article notes:
Some 41 nations within the 54-member Commonwealth have laws banning homosexuality. Many of these laws are a legacy of British Empire laws.
Although I took issue with Michael Kirby’s particular emphasis on the ‘legacy’ argument in my recent post – here it’s fine, as one element of the BBC piece. But what also emerges very clearly from the report is that many countries are introducing new punitive legislation, which cannot possibly be blamed on the British Empire.
The discussion in the Ugandan parliament of an anti-homosexuality bill in 2009 sparked particular controversy, and earlier this year Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was beaten to death in a suspected hate crime.
Nigeria’s Senate is currently discussing a bill banning same-sex marriage, that includes penalties for anyone witnessing or aiding a same-sex marriage.
Ugandan journalist, Charles Odongpho, offers a different kind of illogical response.
“I welcome any move to pressure our government to be respectful of democratic values and human rights but speaking as a Ugandan I think we have much more important issues to deal with than the rights of homosexuals.
“This is your money and you know where you want to put it but we face very serious issues of corruption, poverty, education and hunger. These are the most critical issues for us, not homosexual rights.”
Homosexual rights are one facet of human rights, and granting such rights won’t take any resources away from the other important areas Odongpho is rightly concerned about.
And finally here’s another perspective on what the Commonwealth’s priorities should be.