Queer Commonwealth: Faces of the global LGBT movement


It should never be illegal to be who you are.

Yet lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people continue to face high levels of violence and discrimination across the world.

72 countries criminalise male homosexuality, with 45 also criminalising female homosexuality.

In the Commonwealth, 36 of its 53 countries maintain laws that make same-sex intimacy between men a crime and, in 16 of them, it is also punishable offence between women.

In the majority of criminalising countries, homophobic laws are a legacy of British colonisation.

Although the number of countries that criminalise LGBT+ people is slowly decreasing, with Belize and the Seychelles decriminalising in the last couple of years, deep stigmatisation persists.

A new series of photographs captures the faces of the LGBT+ rights movement in the Commonwealth.
The photos, taken by photographer Eivind Hansen, were commissioned by UK-based LGBT+ rights charity Kaleidoscope Trust.

I’ve always wanted my work to represent a positive change in the world. Photographing people within the LGBT+ spectrum has become something that’s very important to me”, East London-based photographer Hansen said.

“I hope the photos can create more visibility around LGBT+ people and their struggle for equality in the countries they come from.Queer Commonwealth: Faces of the LGBT+ Movement captures 33 members of the Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN), which in 2017 became the first LGBT+ network to receive Commonwealth accreditation”, said Paul Dillane, executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust.

As a founding member and Secretariat of The Commonwealth Equality Network, Kaleidoscope Trust strongly believes in joint advocacy.

With 36 out of 53 Commonwealth nations criminalising homosexuality, the fight for global LGBT+ rights continues.

These photos celebrate the vibrancy, positivity and diversity of LGBT+ activists from across the Commonwealth.

Making its debut in central London this week to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the exhibition features subjects from Belize and Tonga, Namibia and Sri Lanka, Cyprus and Malaysia and beyond.

At CHOGM, leaders of Commonwealth governments, including Theresa May, Cyril Ramaphosa and Justin Trudeau, will meet in London to decide collective policies and agree joint work.

The advocates featured in these images stand ready to ensure the concerns and the rights of the Commonwealth’s LGBT+ people are heard and represented.


Donnya Piggott is an LGBT+ activist from Barbados, where homosexuality carries a potential penalty of life imprisonment.

Donnya founded Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination (B-GLAD) in 2012. B-GLAD focuses on public education and advocacy, working on behalf of the community to increase public understanding of the needs of LGBT+ Barbadians.

“In order to create real change we have to work with the public at large. Whether it’s going to churches and having those difficult conversations with people of different faiths, or reaching out to people who engage in behaviours that harm the queer community”, she said.


Qasim Iqbal is an LGBT+ and HIV activist based in Pakistan.

In Pakistan homosexuality is illegal, though the sodomy ban is rarely enforced. In 2011, Qasim launched Naz Male Health Alliance (NMHA), the first and only LGBT+ community-based organisation in Pakistan, which provides support for improving the sexual health, welfare and human rights of LGBT+ people.

Seven years later, he remains the only openly gay and HIV positive activist in Pakistan.

“As a young boy I was bullied. I learned to be strong, but to this day I see many of my childhood friends who struggle with maintaining a stable self esteem because of the bullying they faced.

Seeing their struggle made me realise that I had to stand up for justice and for humanity in a country where even the government is a bully”, said Iqbal. Continue reading

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