Pride House Birmingham co-founder Neil Basterfield insisted Birmingham 2022 offered an "absolutely critical" opportunity to "start having those conversations" ©ITG

Pride House Birmingham's co-founder Neil Basterfield has called on Commonwealth bodies including the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) to "start having those conversations" on LGBTIQ+ legal rights across its territories.

Based here in the English city's Gay Village, Pride House Birmingham aims to provide a safe space for LGBTIQ+ people during the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

It includes educational tools detailing the LGBTIQ+ human rights positions across the Commonwealth.

Of the 72 nations and territories set to feature at Birmingham 2022, 36 still outlaw homosexuality.

In Bangladesh, Barbados, Guyana, Pakistan, and Uganda, sexual activity between same-sex adults has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while in Brunei homosexuality is punishable by death.

Many of these laws date back to anti-gay legislation imposed by former colonial administrators, and Basterfield insists that the CGF and politicians, notably those in the United Kingdom's Government, have a role to play in promoting LGBTIQ+ rights.

"It really is up to the organisation, the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Commonwealth themselves to start having these conversations," Basterfield told insidethegames.

"A lot of the problems and issues are borne out of colonial legacy, so they're issues we in the UK are responsible for, creating these cultures where criminalisation has happened and it is currently difficult to decriminalise.

"It's absolutely critical to have the opportunity at Games time to start having these conversations.

"It's really important.

"What needs to happen is, the politicians, the Commonwealth Games organisers, the people who run the Commonwealth, they need to be taking the baton now and have those conversations.

"The British Government need to stand up and stop telling us that they support LGBTIQ+ rights but effectively do very little about it."

Thirty-six of the 72 nations and territories set to compete at Birmingham 2022 still outlaw homosexuality ©Getty Images
Thirty-six of the 72 nations and territories set to compete at Birmingham 2022 still outlaw homosexuality ©Getty Images

CGF chief executive Katie Sadleir has said that while the organisation does not "have the ability to change the laws inside countries", it can "create opportunities for people to talk in a safe environment about issues that are challenging in those countries."

Pride House Birmingham is set to have a presence in the Athletes' Villages for the first time at Birmingham 2022, and Basterfield did commend organisers for taking the step.

"To me, the importance of that is more the message that it's from the Organising Committee and people like the Commonwealth Games Federation," he said.

"We're always happy to provide that service, and up until now, no Organising Committee has embraced that concept, so for us it’s a great step forward and hopefully will pave the way for Games in the future, whether they be Commonwealth Games or other, to provide the same environment.

"And of course, it will potentially give LGBTIQ+ athletes who come from countries where they may find themselves criminalised an opportunity to find themselves and be themselves in an authentic space away from the general public."

The co-founder also emphasised the importance of education, and pointed out that from 1988 until 2000 in Scotland and 2003 in England and Wales, Section 28 of the Local Government Act prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities.

Pride House Birmingham includes graphics showing LGBTIQ+ legislation in Commonwealth countries ©ITG
Pride House Birmingham includes graphics showing LGBTIQ+ legislation in Commonwealth countries ©ITG

"The principles right from the word go of Pride House Birmingham have been celebrate, educate and participate, and no one element of those three areas is less important than the other," Basterfield said.

"The education part is absolutely critical.

"Right from day one we knew that we wanted a programme that ran before, during and after the Games, and we know in our community the importance of education in early years.

"We live in a country where it wasn't very long ago under Section 28 when teaching children about LGBTQ+ rights, issues and community was outlawed, so it's massively important to get into schools, and do it in an age appropriate way.

"We were able to utilise some fantastic educators in this space who've gone to schools, you can see the work that they’ve delivered, and every single tiny little conversation that you have with a child creates a culture change into adulthood, so we all know the importance of that."

One of Pride House Birmingham's ambassadors is Jamaican swimmer Michael Gunning, who believes that the venue can help to facilitate conversations on driving changes in legislation and attitudes across the Commonwealth.

Neil Basterfield said that
Neil Basterfield said that "every single tiny little conversation that you have with a child creates a culture change into adulthood" ©ITG

"I think so many people are scared to talk about it, so I think the fact that we do have Pride House, we will be starting that conversation, because ultimately it comes from a conversation," Gunning told insidethegames.

"People can hopefully change different perspectives and just see things in a different way.

"I think we get very scared of the unknown.

"I suppressed my sexuality as an athlete for a very long time because I felt like I had to act in a certain way and be a certain role model, but I think more and more athletes are feeling like they can be their true and authentic self, and it's so inspiring.

"Hopefully people coming into this Games will see that representation, will see the different conversations and see it playing out, and hopefully inspire them to change.

"I can’t even imagine some countries that have the death penalty, and I know that we're very fortunate in the UK in that we don't have anything like that, but I think by being able to be open and speak about different issues and challenges, hopefully these Games will really start that conversation and [encourage] more people to step out of the woodwork to share their experiences.

"Hearing different people's experiences will hopefully open the horizons and allow people to think differently."

Pride House Birmingham is open until the final day of the Commonwealth Games on August 8.

Previous editions of the Games at Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018 also featured Pride House, and the CGF launched its Commonwealth Sport Pride Network to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion in December last year.