PHOTOS: Getty, AP
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting opened this morning in Perth, Western Australia. The biennial meeting brings together leaders of the Commonwealth of Nations, mostly former members of the British Empire.
British PM David Cameron and Australian PM Julia Gillard (above), as well as Canadian PM Stephen Harper, are expected to ask member nations to repeal anti-gay laws in an effort to address soaring HIV rates in the global south, reports The Globe and Mail and AFP.
The body tasked with developing options to reform the Commonwealth has noted that the old British Empire laws against gays are still in force in 41 of the 54 member nations. These include statues, mostly enacted in colonial times, which criminalise homosexual sex.
About 2.7 million new people become infected with HIV every year, with the virus claiming a further two million lives annually from Aids. Commonwealth countries are disproportionately burdened with the disease, accounting for some 30% of the global population, but 60% of the world's HIV/Aids cases.
The move comes after reports that the British Foreign Ministry is considering decreasing aid to nations that have been prosecuting gays, reports South Africa's Daily Mail.
Prime Minister David Cameron ... will tell struggling nations they will receive funding “fines” if persecution of homosexuals continues. The government has already cut aid to Malawi by £19 million [$31 million] after two gay men were sentenced to 14 years hard labour. The southern African nation also plans to bring in tough anti-lesbian laws.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell could also reduce aid to Uganda and Ghana unless they drop laws against homosexuality. Uganda, which is due to receive £70 million [$113 million] in 2011, plans to punish homosexuality with the death penalty. The president of Ghana, which gets £36 million [$58 million] a year, has promised to bring in measures to “check the menace of homosexuality and lesbianism”.
The push comes as sodomy laws in several Commonwealth nations are being challenged. A lawsuit was filed against Botswana's anti-gay laws in February. And a landmark challenge to Jamaica's anti-gay laws was announced this week.
Meanwhile: The Commonwealth remains divided over calls for a human rights commissioner. That proposal is not expected to pass.