Speaker John Bercow slams anti-gay Commonwealth states
Call for tolerance: Speaker John Bercow
17 May 2012
Commons Speaker John Bercow has criticised Commonwealth countries that persecute gay people.
In a speech at the Commonwealth Club near Trafalgar Square last night, he said it was “worrying” and “unjust” that same-sex activity was illegal in 41 out of the 54 member states.
“This is clearly a violation of the rights of their citizens,” he said. “And as the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, said in July last year, ‘the vilification and targeting of people on grounds of sexual orientation
are at odds with the values of the Commonwealth’.”
His speech was given to mark International Day Against Homophobia. The event was organised by the Kaleidoscope Trust, which promotes diversity and respect around the world, and was sponsored by
Evgeny Lebedev, the proprietor of the Evening Standard and the Independent.
Mr Bercow said same-sex conduct was still illegal in 78 countries and gay people could face the death penalty in five nations: Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.
“Prejudice, intolerance and persecution on the basis of sexuality are a denial of humanity,” he said. “It is the theft of one of our most fundamental instincts — to love, and to be loved.”
Organisers of this summer’s London Pride events intend to campaign for international decriminalisation of homosexuality. Mr Bercow said the bravery of human rights activists, some of whom will be visiting London, was vital to bring about change. “We must never forget, that it is individual courage that will ultimately advance this cause,” he said. “This is not a cause that can rely on some irresistible tide of history to secure its ends.”