Tom Daley blames British Empire's legacy of colonialism' for homophobic laws in Commonwealth nations

10 August 2022, 12:40

Tom Daley blames 'legacy of colonialism' for homophobia in the Commonwealth
Tom Daley blames 'legacy of colonialism' for homophobia in the Commonwealth. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Olympic champion Tom Daley has blamed "a legacy of colonialism" for ongoing homophobia across many Commonwealth nations.

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The four-time Olympic medallist condemned anti-gay laws during the 2022 Commonwealth Games after revealing it illegal to be gay in more than half of the 54 countries that competed.

In a new documentary exploring homophobia in Commonwealth countries, the diving champion said: "It opened my eyes to so many different things, where the laws came from, where that homophobia stemmed from in the first place and it is a legacy of colonialism."

After researching ways in which he could campaign against homophobia within the Commonwealth, the athlete travelled across the world, speaking to athletes and advocates from Pakistan, Jamaica, Nigeria, Tonga and Singapore and asking their opinion on what more could be done.

The 'Tom Daley: Illegal To Be Me' BBC documentary is described as exploring how the Olympian "discovers the colonial legacy that first criminalised homosexuality and the toxic influence of slavery on attitudes towards LGBT+ people".

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Mr Daley, who came out as gay in 2013, led activists in flying the Pride flag at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

He said that for many in the Commonwealth, seeing the Pride flag, which was on display by many nations and athletes at the opening ceremony, was a sign of "hope and safety".

Tom Daley, and his husband Dustin Lance Black, with his OBE
Tom Daley, and his husband Dustin Lance Black, with his OBE. Picture: Alamy

Tom Daley said previously that his successful 21-year diving career has taken him to a place where he can "start to fight for other people".

The 28-year-old Olympian said that speaking up for LGBT+ rights had been "really scary" but that he had an "obligation and responsibility" to use his platform.

Speaking to The Big Issue ahead of the games revealed: "I thought about how fortunate I am. Because in over half the Commonwealth countries that are competing, it is illegal to be queer."

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Daley said he would also like to approach organisations including the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Fifa to engage in similar conversations around tackling homophobia within sport.

A total of 35 out of 56 Commonwealth nations have laws with state homosexuality is a criminal offence.

It has been argued that theses countries which were once colonised by Britain were introduced to these laws during the days of Empire.

But others argued homophobia predates the British empire with Robert Meyers, political commentator saying: "Not convinced homophobia in some countries is entirely a 'legacy of colonialism' though. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Ethiopia were never colonised, and are virulently homophobic countries."