COUNTRIES that persecute gay people should not be banned from the Commonwealth Games, says a high-profile gay basketballer. Rather, the event should be used to encourage those nations to embrace equality.
Up to 42 of the 53 countries competing at the Commonwealth Games, which begins in the Scottish city of Glasgow today, criminalise homosexuality.
Seven Commonwealth countries currently demand a sentence of life imprisonment for those found guilty of homosexuality while only five – England, Wales, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand – allow same-sex marriage.
Scotland is expected to hold its first same sex weddings towards the end of the year.
John Amaechi, who became the first former NBA player to come out publicly in 2007 following a successful career that included spells with the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, said countries with a poor record on gay rights shouldn’t be isolated.
“It doesn’t take a genius to realise that some countries fail when it comes to article seven, that some fail to live up to the principles of sport itself,” he told Inside the Games.
“Someone might say, ‘This is a violation of the spirit and the word of the principles of the Games’.
“But, instead of isolating 42 of the countries, we say, ‘this is how we can we can help bring you into line’,” said Amaechi.
“This is an opportunity to bring people together and help them understand how diversity, inclusion and equality are not simply window dressing.
Amaechi’s comments follow a demonstration held outside last week outside the home of UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging him to declare his support for LGBTI athletes.
Australian-born human right campaigner Peter Tatchell, who helped organise the rally, said it was unlikely many national sporting committees would have allowed LGBTI athletes to compete at Glasgow.
“David Cameron can help by making clear that such discrimination is incompatible with Commonwealth Games values and rules,” Tatchell said.
“We want the Prime Minister to give a lead and set a positive tone by publicly declaring that anti-LGBT persecution is a violation of the Commonwealth Charter and that LGBTI athletes will be welcome in Glasgow.
“He should make clear that the UK government is willing to give asylum to LGBTI athletes who are at risk of victimisation in their county of origin.”
Meanwhile, Kaleidoscope Australia has blasted the Commonwealth of Nations for its failure to address the persecution of sexual and gender minorities.
In a statement released today, the not-for-profit organisation, which is committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBTI people in the Asia Pacific region, also asked whether Australia should leave the international body.
Kaleidoscope president Dr Paula Gerber said: “The Commonwealth should be a forum for advancing human rights across all its member states but unfortunately for LGBTI citizens this is not the case.
“As the Commonwealth Games start in Glasgow we need to ask some tough questions: should Australia should continue to be a member of an international body where the majority of countries can jail, if not kill, gays?”
The Commonwealth of Nations is an informal grouping of countries with ties to the UK, 16 of which – including Australia – have Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be held in the Gold Coast, Queensland.