Guyana will be among former British colonies that will be asked to repeal laws criminalising homosexuality at next week’s biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), in Perth, Australia.
The call is based on a recommendation from a Commonwealth advisory group and is intended to address HIV-infection rates in Commonwealth countries, which are double the figures in non-Commonwealth countries.
Guyana and other former British colonies in the Caribbean are among the countries in the 54-member Commonwealth group that still criminalise gay sex, although Britain has repealed its laws. “It’s a very special British problem, and the problem is it makes it very difficult to get messages about HIV out,” Michael Kirby, Australia’s representative in the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, which is responsible for the recommendation, told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.
According to a report from the Associated Press, Kirby, an openly gay retired High Court judge, blamed the British influence on former colonies for high rates of HIV-AIDS. “You need to remove the criminal laws. That is what the Eminent Persons Group is suggesting at the … meeting next week,” he added.
The 11-member Eminent Persons Group, which includes Guyana’s Sir Ronald Sanders, was established at the last CHOGM, held in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, to examine options to reform the Commonwealth partnership. Its members participate in their individual capacities and do not represent the views of any member government.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Australia’s Foreign Minster Kevin Rudd said he would raise the issue with foreign ministers from Commonwealth countries attending the meeting. “Australia is a global advocate of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” the spokeswoman was quoted as saying by the Australia’s Sydney Star Observer. “Australia encourages all countries to decriminalise homosexuality by removing all laws imposing criminal penalties for homosexual conduct. Mr Rudd will be raising these matters with Commonwealth foreign ministers at CHOGM.”