Britain: Theresa May 'Deeply Regrets' Anti-gay Colonial Laws

Britain: Theresa May 'Deeply Regrets' Anti-gay Colonial Laws

About 37 of the 53 mostly former British colonies still have colonial era laws which criminalise lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) identities with same sex sexual activity punishable by life imprisonment in nine of those countries. At the forum she said laws that negatively affect same-sex couples were often put in place by the UK. "They were wrong then, and they are wrong now".

Laws "were wrong then and are wrong now", said May, recognizing Britain's central role in enforcing anti-gay attitudes that still plague people across the continent to this day.

"Nobody should face discrimination and persecution because of who they are or who they love", Mrs May said in London as Commonwealth leaders gather for their summit, which is held every two years.

South Africa, which rejoined the Commonwealth after the end of white-minority rule in 1994, became the first African country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2006. The UK this week hosts heads of state and government from the Commonwealth nations.

She said there had been "welcome progress" in recent years but insisted there "remains much to do".

This year's summit is officially hosting gay rights activists under the umbrella of the Commonwealth Equality Network, giving grassroots campaigners the opportunity to lobby worldwide government ministers and officials directly. "The UK stands ready to support any Commonwealth nation wanting to reform outdated legislation that makes such discrimination possible", she added.

"I welcome this acknowledgement of the deep wounds left in our countries by bad colonial laws, wounds from which many of us are still bleeding today", Malaysian activist Pang Khee Teik told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.