Only days after Trinidad and Tobago's High Court repealed the country's sodomy laws, arguing that they were unconsitituional, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May said she “deeply regrets” Britain's historical legacy of colonialism which imposed anti-gay laws throughout the Commonwealth.
Speaking at an NGO sideline event as part of the annual summit of Commonwealth leaders, May urged Commonwealth leaders to “overhaul” colonial-era legislation, saying that “nobody should face persecution or discrimination because of who they are or who they love...I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. As the UK’s prime minister, I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced, and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.”
Her comments were met with some cheers from the audience despite the fact that those colonial-era laws continue to treat same-sex relations as a punishable offense.
Peter Tatchell, a human rights activist, referred to May's comments as being “positive and welcome,” according to The Guardian. However, he emphasized that such words should have been pronounced before those Commonwealth leaders who enforce such oppresive laws.
Tatchell went on to note that May's “statement of regret cannot be easily dismissed and disparaged by Commonwealth heads of government. The prime minister’s regret for Britain’s imposition of anti-gay laws valuably reframes the LGBT issue in a way that it is likely to provoke less hostility in Commonwealth countries.”
Thirty-six Commonwealth member states continue to abide by British colonial legislation that render same-sex relations as illegal. Nine of those countries, in fact, impose life imprisonment, the maximum penalty, for same-sex relations.