Countries that continue to criminalize same-sex relationships is worsening the HIV/AIDS crisis, according to a report produced for UK Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Malta next weekend.
Calling the criminalization of homosexuality an ‘undoubtedly specific Commonwealth problem’, the report, which was produced by the Human Dignity Trust in association with the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association, says the prevention of HIV among gay men in countries where homosexuality is illegal is ‘difficult to address due to “double stigmatization.”‘
The 305-page report provides an overview of each of the 40 of the 53 Commonwealth countries that criminalize homosexuality.
It says, ‘There is a direct link between criminalizing laws and increased rates of HIV, and the Commonwealth undeniably demonstrates this link. The Commonwealth accounts for approximately 30% of the world’s population but over 60% of HIV cases worldwide. This situation has gotten progressively worse since the last CHOGM [Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting].’
‘You will never ever get the AIDS crisis under control while gay men are criminalized. It’s literally not possible while gay men are shamed and stigmatized,’ the Independent quoted Jonathan Cooper, the chief executive of the Human Dignity Trust, as saying.
The report estimates that some 2.9 billion people live in Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Pacific where consensual same-sex intimacy is punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment or even death.
Of that 2.9 billion, approximately 174 million may identify as LGBTI.
In most of the countries, anti-gay legislation were adopted in the 19th century when the countries were under British rule and were retained following independence.
The report also noted that although supporters of criminalization and the status quo often label homosexuality as a Western import foreign to their way of life, it is necessary to acknowledge the colonial origins of these laws which are in fact an ‘archaic relic of former British colonial power.’
The full report can be downloaded here.