Queen Elizabeth: The Commonwealth gay sex bans scrapped under her reign

by Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 8 September 2022 17:48 GMT

Britain's Queen Elizabeth waves as she leaves Manchester town hall in northern England, Britain, March 23, 2012. REUTERS/Phil Noble

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Commonwealth nations have scrapped colonial-era gay sex bans during Queen Elizabeth's reign

LONDON, Sept 8 (Openly) - Queen Elizabeth's 70-year reign saw a wave Commonwealth countries remove laws criminalising gay sex, most of which were introduced when they were part of the British Empire.

More than a dozen Commonwealth nations - a club of mainly former colonies - have decriminalised consensual gay sex since Britain relaxed its own laws in 1967.

But bans on same-sex relations remain in many Commonwealth countries, which Queen Elizabeth headed in a ceremonial role.

Here is a timeline of major events to weaken or remove bans on gay sex in Britain and its former colonies during Queen Elizabeth's rule from 1952 to 2022:

1957 – The Wolfenden Report recommends that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence" in the United Kingdom.

1967 – Gay sex is partially decriminalised in England and Wales, for consenting men aged 21 and over in private. For heterosexual couples, the age of consent is 16.

1969 – Canada partially decriminalises gay sex, for adults aged over 21.

1973 – Malta repeals its British colonial-era ban on gay sex.

1980 – Gay sex is partially decriminalised in Scotland.

1981 - Vanuatu legalises consensual same-sex relations for adults.

1982 – Gay sex decriminalised for over-21s in Northern Ireland, after a 1981 European Court of Human Rights ruling.

1986 – New Zealand decriminalises gay sex.

1991 – The Bahamas partially decriminalises gay and lesbian sex for over-18s.

1997 – Tasmania is the last state in Australia to make gay sex legal.

1998 - South Africa declares the criminalisation of gay sex unconstitutional.

2001 – The gay male age of consent across Britain is reduced to 16, making it equal to the heterosexual age of consent and fully decriminalising consensual gay sex.

2002 - Cyprus makes the age of consent 17 for everyone, having initially legalised gay sex for those aged 18 and over in 1998.

2010 - Fiji lifts its colonial-era ban on gay sex.

2012 – Lesotho repeals its 1939 sodomy ban.

2014 – Uganda's constitutional court nullifies a law that would have strengthened an existing British-era ban and imposed punishments of up to life in jail for gay sex.

2015 - Two articles in Mozambique's Portuguese colonial-era penal code criminalising "vices against nature" are repealed.

2016 – Belize's Supreme Court rules its gay sex ban is unconstitutional. Seychelles also repeals its prohibition.

2018 – India's colonial ban on gay sex is ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, decriminalising same-sex relations in the country of 1.3 billion people.

2018 – Trinidad and Tobago's high court overturns its law against "buggery".

2019 – Brunei introduces the death penalty for gay sex, but later says it will not implement it after a global backlash.

2019 - Botswana High Court rules that laws criminalising same-sex relations are unconstitutional.

2022- High Courts in both Antigua and Barbuda and its neighbouring island state St Kitts and Nevis declare that laws criminalising LGBTQ+ people are unconstitutional.

2022 - Singapore announces it will repeal a law that bans gay sex.

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(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage and Lucy Middleton; Editing by Sonia Elks. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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