Tom Daley, one of Britain’s most recognisable sportsmen, has made an impassioned plea for more Commonwealth countries to decriminalise homosexuality, stressing the importance of “shining a light” on the issue.
The 23-year-old, a four-time gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games, said it was crucial for him to be open about his sexuality while competing in the Gold Coast, but warned that privilege was not guaranteed to other athletes the world over.
Daley, who has also won two Olympic bronzes, said that 37 of 53 countries in the Commonwealth still classed homosexuality as illegal. It is punishable by imprisonment in 19 nations, including India and Malaysia, while in Brunei it is punishable by death penalty.
The idea that it was “illegal to be who I am” in so many countries, said Daley, ought to spur change.
Speaking after he and diving partner, Dan Goodfellow, won the synchronised 10m platform, he said: “Hopefully we can reduce that number. Coming to the Gold Coast and being able to live as an openly gay man is really important.
“You want to feel comfortable in who you are when you are standing on that diving board and for 37 Commonwealth countries that are here participating that is not the case.
“There are lots of things that are going to take a long time to change, but I feel with the Commonwealth, we can really help push some of the other nations to relax their laws on anti-gay stuff.”
Daley’s remarks come just days before the Queen is due to welcome leaders for the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in London. The event is designed to allow nations to “reaffirm our common values” and address “shared global challenges.”
It is not the first time the issue has been raised at a Commonwealth Games. Four years ago at Glasgow 2014, veteran cyclist Graeme Obree called for Ugandan leaders to be snubbed after its government passed a series of contentious anti-gay laws.
David Grevemberg, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said this year’s Games and those in Glasgow - where he was CEO - were “the most inclusive events in our movement’s history,” and pointed to how the number of Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence has fallen from 43 over the past four years.
Mr Grevemberg said: “We hope that the Commonwealth Sports movement is playing a meaningful role in the wider global conversation around tolerance, empowerment and legal recognition for all.”
Meanwhile, Daley, who announced in February that he and husband Dustin Lance Black are having a baby, said he was gearing up for next month, where he will be competing in Kazan, Russia, in diving’s world series.
The location of the event, he explained, will bring its own challenges for an openly gay competitor, but he vowed to meet them head on.
“Going to Russia can be scary, you’ve got to compete in front of lots of people who know I’ve got a husband,” he added. “You have to face those things and try and make change.”