AROUND 100 campaigners have gathered in Edinburgh to protest against anti-gay laws recently passed in Nigeria and Uganda.
The event called on the UK Government to use diplomatic channels to ensure LGBT human rights are upheld in the African states and around the world, and to review the aid provided to countries including Nigeria and Uganda to ensure funds provide maximum support for equality.
The protest was staged by charity the Equality Network and coincided with an international day of action called by Nigerian LGBT activists who took part in rallies in major cities around the world including Johannesburg, New York and Stockholm.
It also comes after increasing focus on LGBT rights within the Commonwealth, of which both Uganda and Nigeria are members, particularly with the Glasgow 2014 Games just months away.
In the run-up to the Games, the Equality Network said it will be working with the Scottish Govern-ment and LGBT groups across the Commonwealth to highlight the challenges LGBT people face.
The group's Scott Cuthbertson said yesterday: "As the eyes of the world fall on Scotland in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with LGBT people in Nigeria and Uganda who face violence, discrimination and imprisonment because of who they are and who they love.
Laws which criminalise LGBT people and violate their human rights cannot go unchallenged.
"The message was loud and clear in Edinburgh. As the Scottish bagpipes and African drums played over the Mound and over 100 people came to protest homophobia we know this is just the start of a great opportunity to engage with the Commonwealth on LGBT issues."
Nigerian LGBT activist Bisi Alimi said: "The Nigerian LGBT community and their friends and families live in an atmosphere of fear. Since the signing of the Nigerian Anti Same Sex Marriage Law, a number of people have been arrested in Nigeria. In at least one instance, mobs have pelted a courthouse with stones, after being unable to inflict violence on the accused persons. Mob violence against LGBT people has increased too."
Speakers at the protest included a bisexual woman from Uganda, who remained anonymous for fear of reprisals, James Dornan MSP, who recently made a parliamen-tary visit to Uganda, and Dr Matthew Waites, senior lecturer in sociology at Glasgow University and editor of Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth.
Of the 54 Commonwealth countries, 42 still criminalise same-sex relationships.
In Nigeria the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013 punishes anyone entering same-sex relationships with 14 years in prison. In Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014, punishes "the offence of homosexuality" with life imprisonment.