British government should take responsibility for colonial sodomy laws, says Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch deputy director, Asia, tells Gay Star News that the UK government should publicly denounce anti-gay laws that were set up by the British empire

British government should take responsibility for colonial sodomy laws, says Human Rights Watch
14 December 2012

The British government should do more to persuade ex-colonies to repeal anti-gay laws, Phil Robertson the deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch told Gay Star News yesterday.

Former British colonies Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other countries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean still carry Section 377 or similar versions of the British-empire-era law that criminalizes gay sex.

‘The British government has a fair amount to answer for,’ said Robertson. ‘They should be actively trying to persuade governments to take these laws of the books. This is part of a colonial inheritance.’

Robertson added that the British government should make a public statement denouncing the anti-gay laws, like United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon did earlier this week.

The anti-gay law is particularly protected by the Malaysian government, where Human Rights Watch is working to protect LGBT people in the face of frequent homophobic statements from politicians.

‘We’ve had some very interesting arguments in Malaysia,’ said Robertson. ‘We’ve tried to say, "why are you enforcing an old British law?" And they’ve argued back saying "no it’s not a British law, we had a law like that before the British law". They were trying to out-British the British with homophobic attitudes. It was really surreal.’

As well as the discrimination against gay people that it encourages, the law is a unjust in Malaysia because it is selectively enforced.

‘The number of cases were this law has been used you could probably count on one or two hands but it’s been used twice on the opposition leader,’ said Robertson, adding that the acquittal of Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy earlier this year was a proud moment for justice in the country.

The former British colony that is most likely to repeal its anti-gay law in the near-future is Singapore, where two men are currently mounting a constitutional challenge to the law.

If the challenge is successful, Robertson said it could bring about positive changes in the southeast Asia region. ‘Despite being a small country Singapore does have significant influence,’ he said.

Robertson added that the intergovernmental organization of former British empire states, the Commonwealth of Nations, should also do more to encourage the repeal of the anti-gay laws. They should ‘set out a timeline for member states to abolish them,’ he said.  

Read the full interview with Phil Robertson here.



No thumbnail available

Walking Dead introduces first gay character

Here's everything you need to know about Aaron
No thumbnail available

Anti-gay laws are 'blot' on Uganda

Uganda slammed over homophobic policies in Pan African Parliament as nation celebrates 50 years since independence
No thumbnail available

‘I want Prince Harry to be my new boyfriend,’ says Strictly judge

Craig Revel Horwood wants the cheeky prince to take part in Strictly Come Dancing
No thumbnail available

New ABC legal drama shows how to get away with a steamy gay sex scene on network TV

Saying gay sex is 'part of life,' How to Get Away With Murder creator Peter Nowalk promises lots more
No thumbnail available

Laverne Cox to guest star on Bravo's new series Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce

Show is first scripted series from network best known for Real Housewives franchise
No thumbnail available

Gay rights in South Korea

South Korean filmmaker and activist Sunghwan Kim talks to Gay Star News
No thumbnail available

Twenty-two pastors criticize Hong Kong preacher for ‘demonizing’ gays

Baptist preacher Enoch Lam is ignorant to have compared gays to gamblers, drug addicts or killers, say pastors
No thumbnail available

Some very famous 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' with Cyndi Lauper's classic hit

Rosie O'Donnell and others use Kinky Boots to pay tribute on 30th anniversary of song's release
No thumbnail available

Win tickets to Eurovision final: What happens next?

After you triumph at our G-A-Y contest to go from London to Copenhagen for the Eurovision Song Contest final, here’s what to expect for the high-octane weekend
No thumbnail available

Lesbian teacher faces prison for sex with 15-year-old student

26-year old Emily Fox has pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual activity with a female student