English world champion diver Tom Daley on Friday urged Commonwealth nations who outlaw homosexuality to relax their anti-gay stance.
Openly gay Daley, who is expecting a child with his partner through a surrogate, grasped the opportunity of his gold medal triumph in the 10-metres synchro event to push for change.
Daley, who won gold with team-mate Daniel Goodfellow, said homosexuality is criminalised in 37 Commonwealth countries. Daley voiced his concerns about the treatment of homosexuals in large parts of the Commonwealth, whose athletes are gathered on Australia’s Gold Coast for the ongoing Games.
“Hopefully, I know this might sound a bit political, but by the next Commonwealth Games (in Birmingham 2022), there are 37 countries in the Commonwealth where it’s currently illegal to be who I am, so hopefully we can reduce that number between now and then,” Daley told reporters.
“Coming to the Gold Coast and being able to live as an openly gay man is really important and to be able to feel comfortable in who you are when you are standing on that diving board.
“For 37 countries that are here participating that’s very much not the case.”
Daley said it was time for those Commonwealth countries to change their anti-gay laws. “You just have to face those things and try and make change,” he said.
“There are lots of things that are going to take a long time to change, but I feel with the Commonwealth I think we can really help push some of the other nations to relax their laws on anti-gay sex.”
Commonwealth Games Federation CEO David Grevemberg said his organisation was proud of its record on inclusivity.
“At the time of Glasgow 2014, 43 Commonwealth countries criminalised same sex activity, but today, that number has been reduced to 37,” Grevemberg said Friday.
“We hope that the Commonwealth sports movement is playing a meaningful role in the wider global conversation around tolerance, empowerment and legal recognition for all.”
Daley’s comments were backed by New Zealand boxer Alexis Pritchard, who wore rainbow socks in support of gay rights in her 57kg semi-final on Friday.
“I think it’s particularly sad that people cannot love who they want to love,” she told AFP.
“It’s important that each and every individual has rights to receive love and give love to the people that they choose.
“I find it absolutely sad that we are not open to that in so many nations.”
The penalties for private, consensual sexual conduct between same-sex adults remain harsh in a number of Commonwealth countries, including imprisonment, hard labour and in some cases flogging.
The Commonwealth countries that outlaw homosexuality include Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tonga.