More than 30% of the global population resides in the Commonwealth, the geographical domain once ruled by the British Empire. Unlike other inter-governmental organisations, the Commonwealth is believed to be united by a common language, history, culture, and their shared values of democracy and the respect for human rights.
No doubt, with 53 member states, it is one of the most important assemblies of nations. Having a dedicated multi-sporting extravaganza for the Commonwealth means creating a platform for a third of the world’s population. The Commonwealth Games, thus, is one of the most important events of the world. It has the ability to promote new values and standards. And, it goes without saying that one of its main aims, like those of Olympics and Asian Games, is to provide an equal playing field to everyone, without discrimination.
The Games’ controlling body, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has its Article Seven dedicated to discrimination and it reads, “For the Commonwealth Games and generally in respect of all activities of the Federation and events under its control, there shall be no discrimination against any country or person on any grounds whatsoever, including race, colour, gender, religion or politics.”
When a country receives the right to host such a Games, it’s expected that the host nation will welcome everyone irrespective of their colour of skin, gender, nationality, class, caste, religious or political beliefs or the absence of them. It’s in this spirit that the Glasgow City councilors have agreed to allow the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rainbow flag to be flown at City Chambers prior to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
This is a special gesture from the host nation, considering the fact that many of an estimated 2.328 billion population of the Commonwealth countries live under extreme poverty, subjugation and constant denial of their rights, including those of sexual minorities. Showing solidarity to them at a platform like the Commonwealth Games, certainly gives that much-needed impetus to the fight against discrimination and exploitation.
The Commonwealth’s Charter may spell strong words against all forms of such discriminations, but majority of the member states still consider LGBT people criminals and have laws against them. Commonwealth countries like Bangladesh, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Tanzania have laws to penalise homosexuality, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Unluckily, the fight against homophobia in India too is only regressing with ambiguous laws.
The recent Sochi Winter Games witnessed widespread global outcry following the enactment of tough anti-LGBT laws and the rise of extreme homophobia in Russia. Arrests and man-handling of gay-activists aggravated the situation for the organisers, who were already facing criticism for environmental and financial crisis.
But the Glasgow Games will, at least, be without the homophobia crisis as they have allowed the rainbow flag to hoist in Glasgow, welcoming everyone to an open sporting event. Symbolically, the flag represents every one in every nation who seeks an end to discrimination.
Homophobia remains a serious issue in today’s world. But a country like Scotland has set examples for the rest by passing laws which allows LGBT community to live in dignity and in peace. In fact, Scotland is one of the first countries to legalise homosexuality, as early as 1980s. Further, the Scottish Government legalised same-sex marriage early this year.
After all, besides celebrating sporting and competitive spirit through these games, we should also promote equality and love to make our world a better place to live.