LONDON, (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday she regretted Britain’s role in anti-gay legislation across its former colonies, seeking to address criticism of the Commonwealth at its gathering in London.
May is looking to reinvigorate the Commonwealth, a 53-country network of mostly former colonies, as Britain seeks new post-Brexit ways to project its influence in the world and establish a role as a leader of free trade.
Speaking on the second day of a week-long meeting in London, May addressed a wide range of humanitarian and environmental issues, including laws which outlaw same-sex activity in 37 of its 53 member nations.
“I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country. They were wrong then and they are wrong now,” May said.
“As the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.”
May committed 212 million pounds ($304 million) to try to make sure children living in developing Commonwealth countries receive 12 years of quality education.
“I want this to be the summit where the Commonwealth agrees to make that the goal for all our members – and begins to put in place the concrete measures that will allow it to become a reality,” she said.
May spoke alongside Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, also touching on the need to reduce malaria deaths, saying around 90 percent of Commonwealth citizens live in countries where the disease is endemic.
She urged fellow leaders to target a halving of malaria rates by 2023.