The British legacy of homophobia

Published: November 4, 2010

Once again, a country that was a British colony has run afoul of human rights concerning gay people. A Ugandan newspaper recently called for the hanging of homosexuals, after "outing" 100 people in a news story. Earlier this year, Malawi imprisoned a gay couple for celebrating their engagement in a public ceremony. The Malawian president granted the two offenders a pardon only after huge international outcry and the intervention of the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

The common thread in these incidents is that laws remain on the books that are relics of a British colonial past. In Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, offences under the Victorian Offences Against the Person Act 1861 have metastasised into legal codes that prohibit acts of homosexuality. Even where there are no prosecutions, that such laws remain on the statute books serves as a big stick that silences, suppresses and intimidates gay people.

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