Following calls to boycott next year’s Sochi Winter Olympics because of Russia’s new laws on same-sex rights, attention has turned to the Glasgow Games and the 80% of Commonwealth nations that have sanctions including the death penalty against their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations.
One prominent MSP has called on Scottish Government ministers to go beyond “talking up sports and Glasgow” and raise LGBT abuses with their counterparts in Commonwealth nations with anti-same sex laws.
The Kaleidoscope Trust, set up in 2011 to pressure Britain’s politicians on LGBT rights in the Commonwealth, said it would be campaigning on the issue in the run-up to Glasgow 2014, starting with the heads of government summit in Sri Lanka in November.
Meanwhile, leading gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has called on Games organisers to stage LGBT events to show a commitment to the issue, adding: “Homophobic discrimination is not a sporting value.”
Commonwealth Games Minister Shona Robison said countries would be in “no doubt about our values when we welcome the Commonwealth to Scotland next year”.
Some 41 nations in the 54-member Commonwealth have laws banning homosexuality, many of which are a legacy of British Empire legislation which has never been repealed.
Uganda has attracted particular attention in recent years, most notably after gay rights campaigner David Kato was beaten to death in a suspected hate crime.
In Nigeria the law stipulates 14 years imprisonment if found guilty of same sex relations, while this week, in Aba state, police put Benjamin Ndubuisi, 40, on trial for having sex with a 23-year-old man, based entirely on rumours. In 12 of Nigeria’s states punishments include flogging and death by stoning.
No Commonwealth Secretary General had addressed the issue until current post-holder Kamalesh Sharma argued two years ago in Australia that “vilification and targeting on grounds of sexual orientation are at odds with the values of the Commonwealth”.
The Queen had been expected to address the issue specifically earlier this year. However, the charter she signed stated the Commonwealth was “implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds”, with the decision not to specifically address sexuality, angering campaigners.
Glasgow Green MSP Patrick Harvie said while the Glasgow Games were a celebration of sport and culture “that doesn’t happen in a vacuum”.
He added: “When Scottish Government ministers meet their Commonwealth counterparts they should be talking about LGBT rights in the context of that meeting.
“It’s not just about talking up sports and Glasgow but human rights. In many Commonwealth countries it’s about violence and threat to safety.”
Mr Tatchell added: “I hope the Glasgow organisers will schedule a parallel human rights conference with a strong LGBT equalities element, including gay speakers from Africa and Asia.
“I look forward to Glasgow hosting a Pride House during the competition, a space where LGBT competitors and spectators can socialise and get information about the city’s gay venues and events.”
Alistair Stewart, of the Kaleidoscope Trust, said: “The principle of the Games should be celebrated. Lesser voices are heard. But that’s not possible in 41 Commonwealth countries, where people can’t participate in public life or in the Games.”
Ms Robison said: “I fully support any moves to protect and defend equality. The Scottish Government firmly believes thereis no place for prejudice or discrimination, in Scotland or any other part of the world, and that everyone deserves to be treated fairly regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Countries will be in no doubt about our values when we welcome the Commonwealth to Scotland. I will also make Scotland’s views on these issues clear when appropriate at the meetings with Commonwealth countries regarding Glasgow 2014.”
A Glasgow 2014 spokeswoman said: “Glasgow 2014 is a diverse and inclusive organisation and in line with the Commonwealth Games core value of equality, aims to engage individuals from all backgrounds, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We are clear we can better challenge prejudice by being inclusive and using opportunities which bring people together to celebrate our values of equality and diversity.”