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COMMENTARY: World Pride in London urges global equality for all

(Editor's note: Today, London celebrates 40 years of Gay Pride and hosts World Pride, a global jamboree of LGBT campaigners from all over the world. The theme of today’s Pride parade is: “Decriminalize homosexuality worldwide - Global equality for LGBT people.” Peter Tatchell, director of the human rights advocacy group the Peter Tatchell Foundation, discusses the importance of global equality. He helped organize Britain's first Gay Pride Parade, held in London 40 years ago in July 1972. He is a Patron of Pride London.)

Nearly 80 countries still criminalize homosexuality, with penalties ranging from a few years imprisonment to life imprisonment -- and even execution in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

More than half the countries that outlaw same-sex relations belong to the Commonwealth, despite the Commonwealth’s professed commitment to human rights, equality and individual freedom.

The Commonwealth is a bastion of homophobia and transphobia.

More than 40 of the 54 Commonwealth member states (80%) currently criminalise homosexuality, mostly as a result of laws that were imposed by Britain in the nineteenth century, during the colonial era.

The penalties for homosexuality include 25 years jail in Trinidad and Tobago and 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia.

Several Commonwealth countries stipulate life imprisonment: Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Guyana.

In parts of Nigeria and Pakistan, gay people can face "honor killings" and execution under Sharia law.

There are, or have been, homophobic witch-hunts in several Commonwealth countries: Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ghana and The Gambia.

In the history of western imperialism, there were parallel colonialist narratives of racism and homophobia.

The existence and toleration of homosexuality among tribal peoples in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America was often cited by the colonizers as evidence of the "barbarism" and "racial inferiority" of indigenous peoples. It was used to justify the so-called "civilizing" mission of colonialism and Christianity.

This World Pride we call on governments worldwide to:

-- Decriminalize homosexuality

-- Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

-- Enforce legislation against threats and violence, to protect LGBT people from hate crimes

-- Consult and dialogue with their LGBT communities

It’s time to make homophobia and transphobia history.