New Ugandan law highlights extent of Commonwealth anti-gay rights persecution ahead of Glasgow 2014

Friday, 20 December 2013

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By Nick Butler

Ugandan gay rights laws encourages international condemnation...including outside the Ugandan Embassy in London ©Getty ImagesDecember 20 - Uganda has continued a Commonwealth wide trend of introducing anti-gay rights legislation to emphasise the widespread nature of prejudice existing among many of the nations who will compete at Glasgow 2014.

Russia has received international condemnation for its supposedly anti-gay propaganda rights legislation introduced earlier this year into the Duma - the Lower House of Parliament - ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, while 2022 FIFA World Cup host Qatar has also been criticised for its stance on homosexuality.

But it is a problem that is also widespread in the Commonwealth as well, with 40 of the 53 member nations - so over 70 per cent - having some kind of law persecuting same sex relationships.

Although gay rights were already persecuted in Uganda the Bill, which passed through Parliament today, increases punishments to include life imprisonment in some cases while it also makes it a crime punishable by a prison sentence not to report on gay people.

The Bill still has to be accepted by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni if it is to be officially signed into law. 

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has the final decision of whether the legislation is passed into law ©Getty ImagesUgandan President Yoweri Museveni has the final decision of whether the legislation is passed into law ©Getty Images






Many of the other Commonwealth countries have simply failed to outlaw persecution which existed in pre-independence colonial era's.

But, Uganda is far from the only country to take a harsher line - with the Nigerian law stipulating 14 years imprisonment if found guilty of same sex relations, while in many regional states punishments include flogging and death by stoning.

In 2011, current post holder Kamalesh Sharma became the first ever secretary general of the Commonwealth to defend gay rights when he argued in Australia that "vilification and targeting on grounds of sexual orientation are at odds with the values of the Commonwealth."

The issue remained off the agenda at the recent Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, however, and it is thought that the more liberal member countries, such as Britain, Australia and Canada, are afraid to be too critical in case it encourages another nation to leave the organisation as Gambia did earlier this year.

There have been calls from certain quarters for events promoting gay rights values to be held during Glasgow 2014 next year.

This was something requested by prominent campaigner Peter Tatchell when he expressed his hope that "­Glasgow organisers will schedule a parallel human rights conference with a strong equalities element, including gay speakers from Africa and Asia."

There has been widespread protests and international condemnation of Russian anti-gay rights laws ahead of Sochi 2014 ©Getty ImagesThere has been widespread protests and international condemnation of Russian anti-gay rights laws ahead of Sochi 2014 ©Getty Images




Tatchell added that he is looking forward to Glasgow hosting a Pride House during the competition, a space where gay competitors and spectators can socialise and get information about the city's gay venues and events.

It is understood that such measures are unlikely to occur.

But at the same time, if independent protests are launched by figures such as Tatchell they would not be challenged by Games organisers. 

Speaking earlier this year, Shona Robison, Minister for Commonwealth and Sport, insisted she "fully supports any moves to protect and defend equality."

"The Scottish Government firmly believes there is 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," she added.

"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."

British diver Tom Daley is aiming to compete at Glasgow 2014...following his recent announcement that he is in a same sex relationships ©Getty ImagesBritish diver Tom Daley is aiming to compete at Glasgow 2014...following his recent announcement that he is in a same sex relationships ©Getty Images


These sentiments were repeated by Games organisers, with a spokesman telling The Herald that "Glasgow 2014 is a diverse and inclusive organisation and in line with the Commonwealth Games core value of equality, which aims to engage individuals from all backgrounds, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation."

In a sporting sense, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) have highlighted article seven of their constitution.

This reads that "there shall be no discrimination against any country or person on any grounds whatsoever, including race, colour, gender, religion or politics."

However, a CGF spokesman admitted  to insidethegames that until a country specifically outlaws an athlete competing, or does something which would directly affect sport, no action would be taken against member nations which persecute gay rights.

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