Commonwealth insights: legislative reform

In many Commonwealth countries, legislation such as those relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, and mental health were codified in colonial times and continue to impact the lives of citizens. In the majority of Commonwealth countries, colonial laws remain in place and, while in some countries legislation may not contain punitive provisions, the presence of unreformed statutes leads to and perpetuates exclusion. In the remainder, steps have been taken to modernise laws. The Commonwealth People’s Forum 2018 (CPF 2018) examined how civil society and policy makers can work together to reform colonial laws in Commonwealth countries to gain full rights for people with mental health vulnerabilities and LGBT+ people. This built on a policy dialogue which took place at CPF 2015 entitled LGBTI in the Commonwealth. While these colonial-era laws continued unreformed in most of the Commonwealth, Britain, as the former colonial power, decriminalised same-sex sexual relationships a half a century ago and has instituted legislation to provide mental care services universally and at the point of need.

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