Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in the Commonwealth


Dr Matthew Waites, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow, talks about his new book, ‘Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change’ Corinne Lennox and Matthew Waites, eds. (2013).

The book is has been published on a not-for-profit basis by School of Advanced Study, University of London, and is available free online here.

Human rights in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity are at last reaching the heart of global debates. lgtbiYet 78 states worldwide continue to criminalise same-sex sexual behaviour, and due to the legal legacies of the British Empire, 42 of these – more than half – are in the Commonwealth of Nations. In recent years many states have seen the emergence of new sexual nationalisms, leading to increased enforcement of colonial sodomy laws against men, new criminalisations of sex between women and discrimination against transgender people.

Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in The Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change challenges these developments as the first book to focus on experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) and all non-heterosexual people in the Commonwealth. The volume offers the most internationally extensive analysis to date of the global struggle for decriminalisation of same-sex sexual behaviour and relationships.

The book has been developed in partnership with Institute of Commonwealth Studies, from a conference jointly convened by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. It offers data on 54 Commonwealth states, with detailed discussion of 16 states by activists and academics – and comparative analysis – covering UK, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Botswana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas. It provides the most internationally extensive analysis to date of the global struggle for decriminalisation of same-sex sexual behaviour. The book also seeks (eg. in chapters by G. Kinsman on Canada and myself on United Kingdom) to document existing critical theoretical analyses of earlier decriminalisation struggles, and suggests their relevance to activism, politics and analysis in current global contexts.

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