Vegan Medication Matters


Vegans are part of one of the fastest growing lifestyle movements in Britain, they are people who follow a plant based diet and avoid consuming animal products including meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and honey. Many people choose the vegan lifestyle because of health implications related to the consumption of meat and dairy products. The World Health Organisation (2015) stated that processed meats were classified as having the same carcinogenic harm to humans as asbestos and tobacco, and increased your risk of colon or rectal cancer by 18%.

There are 3.5 million vegans in the UK according to a recent survey (2018), this represents a rapid increase since 2016 when the figures gathered by Ipsos Mori for The Vegan Society were 542,000  (Great Britain only): this is a rise from 1% to 7% of the UK population.

The survey in 2016 also showed that there were almost twice as many female vegans as male vegans.

Research, supported by Professor Carolyn Roberts of Gresham College, London suggests that many people have embraced the vegan lifestyle because of environmental concerns and in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.

Supermarkets have responded to the rise in demand for vegan foods and most of them have a large range of dairy-free milks, yoghurts and many more vegan-friendly produce readily available on their shelves.

Being a vegan is said to be good for personal health and for the environment, but what happens when vegans do become ill because of any number of reasons including inherited health conditions? Most prescription medications are not vegan or have been tested on animals – this is a pre-licensing requirement of both national and international regulations; the UK requires and regulates experiments on animals.

Can you take prescription medications and still call yourself a vegan?

I have had personal experience of the difficulty that arises when trying to get vegan-friendly medication from healthcare practitioners beginning with the doctor to the point of delivery from the pharmacist I have encountered resistance to my requests for lactose and gelatine free medication. I have been vocal about my dietary requirements, and as a result I have been told, and shown, in the BNF, that most medications prescribed in primary care contain animal derived products. I was additionally informed that labelling of animal content in medication is generally poor and overlooked, and is variable on the institution creating the medication.

These experiences have caused me to wonder what happens to those who have similar requests for other health or religious reasons.

Rastafarians, Jewish and Muslim people are some of the groups that avoid pork and its derivatives in all forms. Yet in 2015 it was reported that many medications, including the influenza vaccine, had pork derived ingredients in them; since that time some Jewish and the Muslim religious leaders have offered guidance on using vaccines with porcine ingredients (2018). Rastafarians have historically embraced a vegan, also known as ital, lifestyle with one of the beliefs of Rastafari being that a plant based diet is medicine for the body.

Jewish people have a list of medications with a kosher certificate, and guidelines to categories of illness to determine whether a non-kosher product can be taken. There are also lists of halal and haram medicines available for followers of the Muslim faith – medications must also be closely monitored during Ramadan when fasting can cause the medication to have unusual effects on the body. Vegan Muslims are not as scarce as they may once have been; there is a dedicated website for the growing vegan Muslim community here. Several studies have been undertaken into the effects of the mainly plant-based and the predominately vegetarian Seventh-day Adventist diet on health; studies of the residents of the Loma Linda area of California show that people following this diet live a longer and healthier life and therefore have less requirements for prescription medications.

Will the strength of the green pound across this rapidly growing British demographic have an effect on the pharmaceutical giants or will changes only occur to the medications available when a wealthy vegan celebrity gets ill? The pharmaceutical industry may not be interested in manufacturing vegan medications because of the cost of finding less expensive ways of testing products. Vegans may continually be faced with the question ‘Is my medication vegan?’ when they see their doctors and pharmacists. I believe that disclosure of animal content in medications is important to enable patients to make informed personal choices.

Maybe the Government should introduce legislation to make adequate healthcare provisions for this growing section of society. It is worth serious consideration because vegan diets make economic sense in both land use and the reduction of CO2 emissions each year. Additionally, consistent healthy eating practices reduce the expenditure on medication, medical visits and hospital interventions.

The NHS has already conducted studies into the health benefits of being a vegan therefore when there is a subsequent need for vegans to access health care I believe that the financial savings that have been made in longer term healthcare needs could be redirected to the provision of appropriate vegan prescription medications.

Is there is any real medical choice for vegans who become ill? This thought led me to the following question: Why can’t all medication be vegan or vegetarian?

Without substantial changes to the manufacture of prescription medication vegans who become ill – like the majority animal-eating sections of society – will have to make additional ethical choices on whether to take medication that has been produced with animal connections or remain ill.

Is this fair?

(929 words)

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018


Is Your Hairstyle Killing You?


I now have very short natural hair. Before this current hair choice I had long dreadlocs for over two decades.

MHM I am not my hair 733815_10152704396910262_1109038281_n

It seems like a long time ago now, but I also recall having perms and enduring the long and painful process of having my hair straightened. When I was a child in the 1960s and 70s I remember my mother using the hot comb to straighten her own and my eldest sisters’ hair: it’s a smell you never forget, it’s a process that is as permanent in memory as the burn from the hot comb if anyone moved unexpectedly.

As a child of a migrant family from the Caribbean I was inadvertently taught that in the UK my family’s natural hair was synonymous with ‘bad hair’ and straightened hair was associated with ‘good hair’. This definition was linked to the pressure of time, the ease of maintenance, the access to hair care products, and the shame that was attached to natural African type hair (now categorised as type 4C).

It was through this familial introduction, and the few negative images available in books and posters of the time, that my initial ingrained concept of beauty was created. To me natural hair was associated with negative stereotypes of being unkempt, unprofessional and rough.

Black women in the UK have a complicated relationship with their hair. For decades weaves, wigs and hair extensions have been used for flexibility and ease of maintenance, while natural hair was seen and used as a political statement from the early 1960s: social assumptions were made from visual appearance.

Raphael Albert archive 1960 -1980

It was almost Hobson’s choice: conform or confront. Either way women have historically been confined with societal hair selections.

Is the desire to change the behaviour and appearance of our hair and skin based on internalised racism which has its roots locked in the nineteenth century?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stated, “Relaxing your hair is like being in prison. You’re caged in. Your hair rules you. You didn’t go running with Curt today because you don’t want to sweat out this straightness. You’re always battling to make your hair do what it wasn’t meant to do.” 

Relaxed and processed hair has become an integral part of Black British society, so this may seem like a frivolous question, but it is a serious enquiry: is your hairstyle killing you? 

Black women have historically had a long association with Black hair care and community, many people will remember sitting at their mother’s feet while getting their hair plaited or styled for school. As community extended the hairdressing salons became sacred Black female spaces, in the same way as barber shops act for the male sections of society. There is both community and big business in hair care.

The first Black millionaire in the US was Madam C J Walker (aka Sarah Breedlove) who amassed her wealth through the creation of hair care products, including the first hair straightening formula, in 1905. Black hair care has remained a multi-million pound section of industry for over a century. It is reported that Black women make up to 80% of the total hair product sales in the UK, and Black women spend six times more on cosmetics than their white counterparts. In 2014 Black women in the UK spent £5.25 billion on hair care products, and crème relaxers accounted for 21% of that figure.

In the US, records show that Black consumers spend nine times more on hair and beauty products than their white contemporaries. The 2018 Nielsen report shows that nearly 86% of hair and beauty products sold in the USA were purchased by minority ethnic groups.

A recent study, relating to the effects on general health of the chemicals in hair care products was published online on 25 April 2018 in the Environmental Research Journal by Dr Jessica Helm et al. This study concludes that “Hair products used by Black women and children contained multiple chemicals associated with endocrine disruption and asthma.” Fragrances, phthalates and parabens are some of the products prevalent in Black hair care and beauty products; parabens have been proven to be carcinogenic, and related to breast cancer and infertility. Previous research in the USA has shown that black women have higher urinary levels of phthalates and parabens than their white counterparts and conclude that the use of skin lighteners and hair relaxers may be contributing factors in the recorded health disparities between the two groups of women.

The full list of products tested in the Silent Spring Institute study can be found here. It was discovered that 80% of the tested products contain high levels of chemicals that ‘disrupt’ the endocrine system, which regulates reproduction, metabolism and affects almost every organ and cell in the body; 84% of the “detected chemicals were not listed on the product label” and the highest number of parabens were found in hair lotions. It must be noted that not all chemicals in hair products are dangerous or damaging to health, what is primarily important to understand is the way the products are used and the frequency of use; there are products available without any of the harmful chemicals highlighted in the Silent Springs study.

The Environmental Research Journal report recommended that personal care products should have improved labelling so that women can make better personal health and beauty choices.

The information in this report suggests that the use of chemicals in Black hair care is dangerously impacting women’s health as the parabens-rich products interfere with natural hormone production. Tola Okagwu, a hair coach, discussed the Silent Springs study with Dr Jessica Helm in an interview by BBC World News. Tola Okagwu has almost a decade of history assisting others to improve the health of their hair, she is also an author of books on the subject. Dr. Jessica Helm concluded that her opinion, after examining the study findings, was that it is best to use caution and reduce exposure to products that cause harm to health. The endocrine disrupting chemicals identified in Dr Helm’s report, have been shown to be associated with increased occurrences of uterine fibroids, infertility, early puberty, and cancer in Black females.

What is the future of the African hair industry if the majority of chemical products are abandoned? #TeamNatural #NaturalHair are two contemporary social media hasttags that are aligned with the growth of natural hair product companies such as Modie Hair Care and Afro Deity. Natural hair care is not unusual, and if the demand for the associated products increases the market will respond. As noted earlier over £5 billion pounds a year is already expended in the Black hair care industry, much of this could be redirected to healthier hair care options for natural hair.

MHM Afro Feb 2005 4853_190170345261_7386360_n

After due consideration of the results of this most recent study I find myself again asking if it is time for more Black British women to consider ditching the use of unregulated and dangerous chemicals on their hair and embrace their natural locs and other hairstyles?

It seems like the healthy option, the real Hobson’s choice.

‘Casual’ racism is not entertainment



20180510_232656 Casual Racism.jpg‘Casual’ racism is not entertainment

After a long day I decided to relax in the late evening with film, something light and entertaining, maybe even a comedy or a drama. So I flicked through the menu of films on offer and read the accompanying descriptions of new films from my streaming provider. My attention was arrested when I saw one film described thus: a young boy “gets lessons in the American way … However, with a disapproving father and casual racism, it’s tough to make it in the Land of the Free.” Hold up. There’s so much wrong with this description but I’ll start here: “Casual racism”?

When is racism ever casual?

Isn’t racism just racism? Like the behaviour of the KKK and white supremacists? Overt, obvious, plain for all to see.

Apparently, it has become trendy to refer to racist microaggressions as casual racism or everyday racism. They are used as humorous interactions and in familiar settings. However, I repeat, there is nothing casual about racism.

Here’s a handy guide to microaggressions that are accepted in some places as ‘just a joke’ or normal behaviour:

You didn’t sound Black / you speak so well / you have great diction.

No matter how you form this, it is not a compliment.

Where do you really come from?

Translation: you’re not white so you don’t belong here. Another option would be to ask the question you really want to know: “What is your cultural heritage or background?”.

Oh, you have a chip on your shoulder.

Because you express your dissatisfaction at racism and unfair treatment you may be pathologised as ‘the angry Black person’.

But, I don’t see colour, I see … you.

Theoretically wanting to see only the humanity in a person is wonderful, but not realistic or practical. Not seeing colour is only possible if you are colour blind.

It’s a joke! Don’t get offended.

I can’t say your name, it’s too … difficult.

You mean like Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, Rachmanioff, Puccini, Mendelssohn, Salieri, and Bach?

I have Black, Asian friends, I’m not racist.

I’m not racist but … (then the racist statement)

People like you

What? What aspect of my personality are you referring to?

I’d rather not live / sit / travel near a Muslim / Hindu / Rastafarian

You’re really pretty … for a Black / Chinese (insert colour or nationality here) person

You’re so … exotic!

I’ve had ex-partners refer to me as exotic. As yet all my research skills have failed to find anything exotic about life in the county of Wiltshire. Maybe it was just their white privilege showing …

That’s reverse racism!

This statement is often used by people who are reluctant to acknowledge racism to minority groups, yet as soon as policies are introduced to reduce the inequality in society this trump card is pulled out as white people (generally) get affronted and defensive.

This type of discrimination aka ‘casual racism’ normalises racial stereotypes and emboldens bullies by offering them everyday validation of their views, this in turn perpetuates societal discrimination. Presenting people of colour as different (code word for inferior in this context) entrenches the problem – even amongst people who consider themselves enlightened and liberal.

Language is filled with antiquated references to ethnicities and race: e.g. the phrase “Indian giver” that is used to denote a person who gives and then takes back a gift, whilst in fact the saying arose because gift giving between Native Americans and European colonisers of the Americas was based on cultural misunderstandings. It is time to question the use of these phrases and to refuse to use them or accept them in conversations.

‘But I don’t mean any harm’ and ‘I haven’t got a racist bone in my body’ are regular responses that I have heard when I question people on their phraseology. The comeback is usually ‘I didn’t intend to offend’ – but you did. What you said and did was offensive. What are you going to do about it now?

Not many people react well to being called a racist, because a racist is someone who belongs to a far right group like the KKK, Britain First, or the National Front, aren’t they? Someone being overtly violent and discriminatory, surely? They’re not a regular person having a laugh and joke with words and common phrases, are they?

How did those phrases become common? They are part of the systemic and often institutional forms of oppression that are the backbone of many societies. They need to be questioned. For example, the ONS census data categories for ethnic group and nationality still does not have a category for Black English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish, whereas you can be white and English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, Irish, Gypsy, Irish Traveller, any other white background.

I’ve always wondered if ‘Black’ is also a nationality as well as a political term.

It is systems like this that portray white as right, as standard, that are the root of the problem. ‘White is right’ is the concept that white English / European / American culture is always right, pre-eminent, ‘normal’ and the standard by which the ‘other’ is judged: this is an Eurocentric world view. This is where racist terminology has its roots.

Just a final note to the unwitting performer of ‘casual’ racism – racism is never casual to the person you are discriminating against. Never. The racist words and behaviour has a direct impact on people’s lives every day. Racism is not a joke.

Neither is sexism, or homophobia.

Mostly people do not like to be identified a racist. The usually react with either guilt or anger. Professor Robin DiAngelo said, “If you call me a murderer, I’ll just laugh, because I’m not a murderer. But if you call me a racist, I’ll lose my s***. … ‘It’s like the N-word for white people.” Really? Why is it so hard for white people to talk about racism? A case of white fragility or white privilege? It appears that most conversations about racism are started by POC. This needs to change.

Here is a Harvard test to check implicit bias. Just in case you’re not sure where you stand. We need to call out ‘casual racism’.

All I wanted to do was watch a film.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

Kanye West, Performance and Controversy

Kanye West MAGA hat


Kanye West is no stranger to controversy. He calls himself a genius. Causing public outcries appears to be part of his toolkit of skills – unless you buy into the idea that he is a hair’s breadth away from insanity: but isn’t that where genius resides?

In an interview on TMZ Live, on 2 May 2018, the discussion subject was free thinking and Kanye West used the opportunity to throw hot oil, disguised as words, onto a burning fire when he contended that enduring 400 years of slavery could be seen as a choice by people from the African diaspora. The comment has had its desired effect. Social media immediately went into a meltdown, and after the initial outrage people started using the clapback hashtag #IfSlaveryWasAChoice to show what an incredulous reception that statement received.

Kanye West is a public figure, he is an artist, he is a performer. What he is not is the spokesman for the whole of the African American people in the world, or those of the wider African diaspora. His comments are his opinion, he is one man in a world of 7.6 billion people; many of whom are scholars of the history of the world and have facts to confirm their assertions.

The TMZ interview was a peak moment in West’s strategy that could have been taken from his personal playbook I believe is called ‘The Art of Performance’. I believe that West’s history shows that controversy is a part of his normal currency – this interview was, in my opinion, a carefully calculated performance in the carnivalesque style of destabilising or reversing power structures, or it could be true that Kanye West is continually experiencing an existential and mental health crisis in the public arena. It could be either of those situations or it could be the fact that he is due to release an album soon.

When Kanye West to comments that, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … For 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” it is obvious that responses to this assertion will be met with anger.  West contends his main belief is in the mental slavery of the present and not the historical past, however his comments intentionally created a strong emotional response from supporters and detractors alike.

Van Lathan, a TMZ employee, confronted West about his on screen comments stating, “I am unbelievable hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something to me, that’s not real.” West apologised for using his words to hurt Lathan and explained that his strategy – his performance with meeting President Trump and also wearing the MAGA hat – is to get close to people in power to alter outcomes by using the mode of love instead of hatred. West explained that using the media is his artist’s way of opening up a conversation by creating images with a “paintbrush and [a] canvas”.

To prove his mental stability West quoted Einstein, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” So, is Kanye actually a genius? He says he is because he learns from his mistakes. Is his bromance part of a bigger plan to destabilise the fragile sensibilities of the 45th President of the United States – who courts publicity and fame in the same way that some musicians do? It appears to be working as Trump noted an increase in his African American approval rating following West’s photo of his signed MAGA hat.

West also spoke to the whole of the studio floor of TMZ employees and suggested that his dream is to encourage people to be free thinkers instead of people who chose to live in the stimulation, the forced reality – like the Matrix? Kanye West insists that he will not be minimised to mere memes of a hip-hop artist, or a Black man in a Black community; he insists that he represents the world and speaks for everybody’s right to think freely and choose alliances freely. Should he be restricted by his musical history, his community history or his social history?

Kanye West is one person who chooses not to be corralled in behaviour or thought – apart from if people think he’s overweight, then he’ll have liposuction and take opioids. That’s his right he says. Who am I to disagree with someone who says in the same interview, “White supremacy is a redundant statement in America – whites are supreme, that’s what we’re taught”?

Kanye West is a performance maestro. He knows his craft and completes his acts well. Every time.

©Marjorie H Morgan 2018

Why the Windrush scandal is a portend for Brexit under the leadership of Theresa May.


Amber Rudd, has resigned following the Windrush scandal in the UK, although her resignation letter states her reason for stepping down is because she ‘inadvertently mislead Parliament’. Rudd was Home Secretary from 13 July 2016 until 29 April 2018. Her predecessor in the Home Office is Theresa May, the current Prime Minister. May was Home Secretary from12 May 2010 until her appointment as Prime Minister in 2016.

It was Theresa May who, during her six years as Home Secretary, introduced and designed the ‘hostile environment’ that became Amber Rudd’s legacy. Theresa May has yet to take responsibility for her design and creation of this system that has, seemingly intentionally and systematically targeted and harassed British citizens who originally migrated to the UK from parts of the Commonwealth.

Immigration control is essential to any nation, however the central concern in Britain is how the Home Office implements its immigration policy. The Windrush generation, who have been incorrectly and cruelly targeted by Home Office officials, have had the misfortune to be victims of a system that has failed to protect them as British Citizens. Specific legal protection for the Windrush generation was removed from the statute books in the 2014 Immigration Act when the specific clause was omitted without consultation or debate.

Amber Rudd can be viewed as a sacrificial lamb for Theresa May; Rudd now has to consider her options as a Conservative backbencher, where before the Windrush Scandal the main option she was considering was when would she become Prime Minister – as happened to the two previous incumbents of the post of Home Secretary: David Cameron and Theresa May.

Theresa May was the longest serving Home Secretary since WWII (James Chuter Ede, (Labour) was the longest serving Home Secretary of the 20th century, he served from 03 Aug 1945 – 26 Oct 1951); in modern political history May is the single person who has had the longest period of time in post to make her policy’s political mark on a department.

May’s approach to immigration is well documented, in 2016 she noted that her preference was to lock people up, not let them out. Also, her approach to civil liberties was noted as ‘careless’. One of May’s initial steps in office as Home Secretary was to torpedo the national identity scheme proposed by the previous Labour government, her statement in 2010 was “first step of many that this government is taking to reduce the control of the state over decent, law-abiding people”. A Windrush debacle question is whether the implementation of that scheme would have saved the distress caused to thousands of Windrush generation British subjects. We will never know, but we can speculate that having a national identity card would have prevented predominately Caribbean elders being incorrectly identified as illegal immigrants – despite Government held data that proved their status as British citizens.

May, as Home Secretary, frequently conceived strategies and policies to cut net migration figures – that reached a high of 330,000 in June 2015 – including splitting up families, enforcing English language use requirements, and removing overseas students from the figure

George Osborne, the then Chancellor of the Executor, said of Theresa May’s migration reduction plans, “They’re not government proposals. I’m not aware that there has been any agreement in the government or any hard and fast proposals that have been discussed. As I say, these are not government policy; we are not advancing them.” In 2015 it was reported that Osborne had plans to increase net immigration to achieve a budget surplus at the end of the parliament. These plans were in opposition to the policies and proposals of Home Secretary Theresa May – who was determined to fulfil the Conservative party pledge to reduce net immigration figures to tens of thousands.

The Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto (2017) reaffirmed Theresa May’s commitment to the ‘strong and stable leadership’ set out at the previous election’s manifesto (2015)  – May confirmed that she would “stick to the plan that has delivered stability and certainty”, “reduce and control immigration” from the annual net migration figures of around 273,000 to “annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades. We will, therefore, continue to bear down on immigration from outside the European Union.

This coded statement is, I believe, the root of the issues that focused on people who were not seen as white British. In 2015 the Tory Government promised to extend their ‘deport first, appeal later’ rule – that was initially applied solely to foreign national offenders – to all immigration appeals and judicial reviews. These are the promises that were the foundation stones for discriminatory practices against British citizens, mainly elderly people of colour, who were former Commonwealth citizens. David Cameron, as Home Secretary, then Theresa May, constructed and built this system and ignored the diversity of the British population as implemented laws that directly opposed their promise to “build a[n immigration] system that truly puts you, your family and the British people first.” All I can deduce from the treatment of the Caribbean elders is that they Conservative Government did not view this cohort as British. Ignoring and erasing Black British communities is an act of representational violence when there should be representational equity in contemporary British society.

At the beginning of the media outcry of the Windrush scandal, the Home Office issued a statement confirming that the Government continues to implement its ‘compliant environment’ whilst making “no apologies for our commitment to build an immigration system which works in the best interest of the country and prevents vulnerable people from finding themselves at risk of exploitation.” (12 April 2018)

If Britain can treat its legal, law abiding citizens in this inhumane, horrendous and cruel manner, then I wonder if there is any hope for humane treatment of fellow European citizens, especially as the Conservative’s manifesto (2017) gleefully states that leaving “the European Union means, for the first time in decades, that we will be able to control immigration from the European Union too.” This far-right rhetoric was also used by UKIP in the successful effort to persuade the general British public that immigration was the cause of all the country’s problems. Theresa May, has also stated that the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) “can bind the hands of parliament [and] … makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals,” like retired Caribbean elders? The actions and records of all the Tory Home Secretaries needs to be examined in detail, from David Cameron through to Amber Rudd, and also the newly appointed replacement.

The appointment of Sajid Javid as the new Home Secretary (30 Apr 2018) is, in my opinion, an attempt to stave off the cries of colour discrimination policies against the majority white Conservative party. What needs to be remembered is that class is as great a division in British society as culture. Managing directors of investment banks do not get treated in the same way as NHS employees – no matter what their colour.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

The Commonwealth, Colonialism and the Legacy of Homophobia

How are these three disparate entities connected? The answer is – very closely.

When is an appropriate time to review this subject? Any time is, but especially now as the UK hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) between 16 – 20 April 2018 in London and surrounding locations.


2.35490582 anti lgbti laws

The Commonwealth consists of 53 member states  and 80 organisations that exist in locations around the globe and work together to promote democracy and peace. Over 40% of the world’s young people (640 million out of 1.8 billion) are members of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth countries include 19 in the African continent, 7 in Asia, 3 in Europe, and 11 in the Pacific: these are all locations where the footprint of colonialism has been stamped, and where the legacy of the imperialist laws relating to same-sex relations, are still being experienced. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in conversation with Reni Eddo-Lodge, comments that colonialism is not historical, it is contemporary: the effects are present everyday. 

Of the 72 countries in the world where same-sex intimacy is categorised as a criminal offence, 36 of them are member states of the Commonwealth, and 9 of these have life imprisonment as a penalty, whilst in two there is risk of execution. The colonial legal legacy from the British Empire in 1860 criminalised ‘unnatural carnal desires’ under section 377 of many country’s penal systems. This conservative Victorian edict has remained entrenched in the legal structures of 36 Commonwealth member states.

In March 2018 there were 37 member states against equality for same-sex Commonwealth citizens. However, a recent challenge to these homophobic colonial laws, which deny a legal right to privacy, was made in 2017 in the High Courts of Trinidad and Tobago by the UK based LGBT activist Jason Jones. The pronouncement, on 12 April 2018, has become a landmark ruling as homosexuality has been decriminalised in Trinidad and Tobago. Justice Devindra Rampersad, delivering his ruling from the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago agreed that Section 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalise anal sex, were unconstitutional and violate Jones’ right to privacy, liberty and freedom of expression – the colonial sodomy laws are an inbuilt Imperial homophobic threat carved into the common law of many countries.

The colonial ‘saving clause’ dictated that laws could not be changed after independence, yet the Government of Trinidad and Tobago have twice amended the Sexual Offences Act since the country’s independence from Britain in 1962: in 1986 the Trinidad and Tobago parliament increased the maximum sentence for sodomy to 10 years imprisonment, and in 2000 the penalty for ‘the offence of buggery’ was again increased to 25 years. The government changes to the law enabled Jason Jones to bring his case to the courts as the Government’s 1986 and 2000 Sexual Offences Act changes nullified the ‘saving clause’.

Following the April 2018 ruling, the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, Faris al-Rawi, said “Our society has changed significantly in its view on tolerating homosexuality, and radically so within the last generation,” yet Stuart Young from the Ministry of the Attorney General, confirmed that the State will appeal Justice Rampersad’s decision.

The week of the CHOGM has seen protests outside of Commonwealth House in London, where activist groups such as African Equality Foundation, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation, along with members of the public have been lobbying the Commonwealth Heads of Government to discuss LGBT issues at the meeting. This proposal has not been accepted in over 6 decades of meetings, with any discussions on LGBT matters being sidelined to NGOs.

There are some Commonwealth leaders who are supporters of equality, however these people, for example Desmond Tutu, Christopher Senyonjo, Festus Mogae, and Joaquin Chissano have historically not been given a voice in the global Commonwealth forum. A petition, by Edwin Sesange, of the African Equality Foundation, calling for an end to LGBT+ persecution in the Commonwealth, was delivered to the Commonwealth headquarters  with over 104,000 signatures the week before the summit began.  This petition appealed for all Commonwealth countries to:

  • Decriminalise same-sex relations
  • Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation & gender identity
  • Enforce laws against & violence, to protect LGBTI people from hate crime
  • Consult and dialogue with LGBTI organisation

At the start of the CHOGM Peter Tatchell, who has been campaigning against anti-gay laws for over 30 years, wrote a letter to Theresa May, as the British Head of State hosting the Commonwealth summit, asking her to apologise for imposing anti-gay laws – the full apology did not happen, although in a NGO Commonwealth Forum, that ran concurrently with the Heads of States meetings, the UK Prime Minister did express ‘deep regrets’ for Britain’s historical legacy of homophobic laws across the Commonwealth.

The criminalisation of LGBT+ people is a clear breach of the human rights of the Commonwealth citizens and goes against the Section II on Human Rights as written in the Commonwealth Charter that starts with the words:

“We the people of the Commonwealth …”

We are committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments. We are committed to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, for all without discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies. We note that these rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and cannot be implemented selectively. We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds. (Section II on Human Rights)

The last sentence of this Human Rights section confirms that the member states of the Commonwealth are opposed “to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.” Unfortunately, by their continual refusal to openly discuss the matter of colonialism and the legacy of homophobia on the formal agenda, the Commonwealth Heads of Government are denying their commitment to equality and protection of civil, social, social and economic rights of the citizens of their individual nations.

The CHOGM sessions have concluded without LGBT+ rights being included on the agenda.

However, following the victory in the Trinidad and Tobago courts on 12 April 2018, Jason Jones said, “This victory is much more than just the legal challenge and constitutional reforms. It is a rallying cry for the LGBT community and our allies to stand up and be counted! This represents the first moment in the history of the English speaking Caribbean that we have become truly visible and in a populist and meaningful manner. Yes, there was pushback but we are pushing forward in ways never seen before. This is the Rosa Parks moment for LGBT people of the Caribbean and we shall NEVER sit in the back of the bus again.”

In Britain, UK Black Pride – led by Phyll Opoku-Gyimah – and the African Equality Foundation, continue to work alongside other LGBTI activists to campaign for full equality for all within the UK and the Commonwealth.

Opoku-Gyimah was widely reported for turning down a MBE in 2016, some of her reasons were relating to the toxic legacy of colonialism on LGBT+ people, she stated: “I don’t believe in, and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where – among many other injustices – LGBTQI [lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws, including in Ghana, where I am from, that were put in place by British imperialists.

As the CHOGM 2018 closed in London on the 20 April 2018, the resistance that Opoku-Gyimah expressed in 2016 must be continued by all equality activists until there are full human rights for all Commonwealth citizens regardless of nationality or sexuality.

Marjorie H Morgan © 2018

While the Commonwealth Heads of Government meet in London, former Commonwealth citizens are still being mistreated in the UK: Urgent Questions are asked in the House

As the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) starts in the UK today (16 April 2018) it is an ideal time to ask what will happen to the children of the Commonwealth who came here as British citizens over 70 years ago?

The infomercial promoting the CHOGM states “This is our Commonwealth” and “What’s agreed on this week matters to us all,” so it seems ironic that for weeks the British Government has refused to discuss a situation that affects such a large number of former Commonwealth citizens within its own borders. Amelia Gentleman, from the Guardian, tweeted that she contacted Downing Street on Friday (13 Apr 2018) about these cases that she has been reporting, yet the Prime Minister’s office have said that Theresa May “had only become aware of the request on Monday morning and confirmed that she would be holding a meeting ‘at the earliest possible opportunity’ with Caribbean leaders.”

At around 13:00 today, the Prime Minister, Theresa May tweeted, “The Commonwealth has never just been about heads of state and government. It has always been an organisation in which people and businesses from around the world can come together and work together to improve all our lives,” yet she initially refused to discuss the case of the ‘Windrush Generation’ at the CHOGM.

When asked last week to discuss what appears to be a travesty of justice, the Prime Minister rejected the formal diplomatic request leaving the Caribbean heads of government to conclude that the British government was not taking this matter seriously. 

Theresa May has also stated that the CHOGM is the “largest summit our country has ever hosted.” Apparently in the Commonwealth every country has a voice, yet the Caribbean people who migrated to Britain over half a century ago have so far remained voiceless and unrepresented by the British Government.

Following the publication of a letter signed by over 140 MPs from across the political parties, Theresa May has now agreed to meet with representatives from 12 Caribbean countries who are at the CHOGM in the UK. The immigration minister Caroline Noakes has also admitted that some Caribbean British citizens have been deported in error, although she would not qualify the amount of people that have been affected by the “terrible mistakes” in this way.

The Commonwealth had 2.4 billion citizens across 53 countries – many of them have requesteda discussion on this matter, yet the Tory led British Government will not agree to open the discussion on this abominable situation that is clearly a breach of the Commonwealth Charter.


The current Commonwealth Charter was signed by HM Queen Elizabeth II on Commonwealth Day 2013. Its firsts words are “We the people of the Commonwealth …” Section II on Human Rights is shown here in full:

We are committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments. We are committed to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, for all without discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies. We note that these rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and cannot be implemented selectively. We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.

The last sentence of this Human Rights section confirms that the member states of the Commonwealth are opposed “to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.” Alas, by their continual refusal to discuss this matter openly, the British Government is following several other Commonwealth nations who disregard the commitment to equality and protection of civil, social, social and economic rights of the citizens of their individual nations.

Labour MP, David Lammy has secured an Urgent Question in the House of Commons at 15:30 on the immigration status of the Windrush Generation. This is following a letter signed by 140 cross party MPs urging Theresa May to take action, and correct this “historic wrong”. Lammy stated that having to raise this question in the house was indicative of a “national day of shame”.

In response to Lammy’s question the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd MP, read from a prepared statement. Her opening remarks asserted that, “there is absolutely no question about their right to remain,” and she confirmed that she will establish a new team of 20 people who will help these residents evidence their right to be in the UK, and to access the necessary services.

The Home Secretary suggested that with this dedicated team cases will take a maximum of two weeks to resolve, and she also assured members of the House that they would be no charges levied on applicants, as “no one should be left out of pocket”.

David Lammy noted that the relationship between the UK and the Caribbean is inextricable since the arrival of the first British ships in the area in 1623. Lammy reminded the house that the Nationality Act of 1948 ensured that Caribbean people migrating to the UK did so as British citizens. He continued that it is “inhumane and cruel for so many of that Windrush Generation to have suffered so long in this condition, and for the Secretary of State only to have made a statement today.”

Lammy also enquired if the Home Secretary could “tell the House how many have been detained as prisoners in their own country … how many have been denied help under the National Health Service, how many have been denied pensions and how many have lost their jobs?”

These questions were not directly answered.

With obvious emotional Lammy stated that having to raise this question in the house was indicative of a “national day of shame”  that “has come about because of a hostile environment policy that was begun under her prime minister.”

The only concession from Rudd was her concern that the Home Office “has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes lose sight of the individual.” Rudd asserted that she has acted now because she has seen the individual stories now and, “some of them have been terrible.” Following this statement she reasserted her commitment to ensuring that cross-departmental information is shared to verify the identity of these individuals and to protect the ‘Windrush cohorts’. Rudd repeated that she was not aware of any specific cases or deportation in these circumstance of lack of up-to-date documentation.

I believe this ‘Windrush Generation’ crisis is deliberate. It’s not an anomaly – it’s structural discrimination. The lives of these Caribbean British elders and their families was deemed collateral damage when the latest immigration laws were enacted. This is the result of systemic and discriminatory government behaviour.

Cross party members of the house raised several questions about individual cases of their own constituents as well as general queries relating to the status of Commonwealth citizens from countries such as India, Uganda, and Poland. The Home Secretary used her stock phrase to respond to these queries – she suggested that the Members contact the Home Office with details of each case so that they could look at them individually, because she repeatedly declared that the “Home Office will be more focused on individuals rather than policy.”

There were several questions from members across the floor including Simon Hoare, MP for North Devon, who asked if there would be a refund of the fees that Caribbean elders had already expense.

Anna Soubry, MP for Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire, was interested to know if this statement from the Home Secretary meant that the default Home Office response of saying, ‘No’ would now alter.

Mark Harper, MP for Forest of Dean, asked what proactive steps the Government would be making to communicate information to those British residents that might be affected by this institutional discrimination. While Joanne Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, observed that this the Home Secretary was wrong that this issue “is not just about individuals it’s about a systemic policy put out by her (Home Secretary) department and it’s symptomatic of the politically driven hostile environment policy, and it’s a sign that it has to stop,” because according to the Migration Observatory at Oxford, there are up to 50,000 Commonwealth born people in this situation.

To many of these questions the Home Secretary responded that she would seek advice or data and get back to the individual Member because the ‘Windrush Generation’ “are here legally and we will help them.”

Diane Abbot, MP for Hackney, asked why in 2014 the Government, under the direction of the then Home Secretary Theresa May removed the protection for Commonwealth citizens without parliamentary debate or scrutiny. Much like Theresa May choosing to engage in air strike in Syria without parliamentary debate or scrutiny this week.

Abbott also requested a cessation on deportations of this groups of people aligned with an apology, and possible compensation, to those wrongfully deported in this immigration policy scandal.

Amber Rudd tried to reassure members of the House with her concluding remarks that indicated that the Government is regarding this situation seriously when she announced that the Prime Minister would be meeting with the Heads of Government on Tuesday 17 April 2018 while she, as Home Secretary, would be meeting with High Commissioners this week to discuss this issue “as a matter of urgency.”

The Home Secretary’s final words to the House were “what I am interested in is effective, sympathetic outcomes.”

Most people simply want justice for Caribbean British elders.

Well, we will have to wait and see what we get from this Home Secretary Amber Rudd and her dedicated team of 20.

A Home Office official stated that legislation “is complex and, when revising it, it is the normal process to simplify it where possible and remove duplications.” Laws are complicated, and anomalies occur, yet all available evidence seems to indicate that the Caribbean British elders were deliberately targeted by the removal of their protection in 2014.

The outcomes of the meetings arranged this week with the CHOGM and the Caribbean High Commissioners is eagerly awaited.


© Marjorie H Morgan 2018