When Prince William appeared on the cover of the July Issue of Attitude, one of the world’s most widely-circulated LGBT magazines, he was setting a new standard of royal acceptance of LGBT issues, not just in the UK but globally - and, importantly, within the Commonwealth of Nations.
Prince William is not one to hide his advocacy and activism. He has been involved in many social issues including raising the profile of mental health in the UK. When he met with the LGBT community to hear first-hand the peril of being LGBT and facing bullying, stigma and discrimination it was barrier-breaking, even here in the UK.
In his comment to the LGBT community, Prince William said: “Bullying is abuse that can end lives, and it has no place in any society”. This rings true to many LGBT people who lived in the Commonwealth.
As the Queen and Prince Charles get older, the responsibility of becoming Head of State will soon fall on William's shoulders, and it's safe to say that we might be seeing a more proactive head of the Commonwealth when it comes to human rights progress. However, this wont be an easy ride for the progressive, modernising Prince. The Commonwealth, with its 53 member states, is one that is riddled with extreme homophobia.
In the last five years, the member states of the Commonwealth have led the way when it comes to persecuting and prosecuting the LGBT community: Of the 53 members, 41 of them have laws on their status book that criminalises homosexuality.
It is very important to point out here that of these nations, less than 10% have proactively persecuted LGBT people, and may of the laws on the statutes book are a sharp reminding of the many atrocities left behind Britain's colonial legacy.
In 2014, Nigeria signed the 'Anti Same Sex Prohibition Act 2013', making it the first country in modern times to constitutionally criminalise same-sex relationships. The following month, Uganda followed with it its widely-condmened 'Kill the gays bill', which President Muserveni signed with pageantry.
It was just a few weeks ago that a high court in Mombasa, Kenya ruled that anal examination to determine homosexuality is legal and constitutional. And in another recent ruling, the supreme court of India upheld section 377, a law that criminalises and target gay men. It's not all doom and gloom though: With the Seychelles leading the way by lifting its own ban on gay sex in the last few weeks, there are hopes of a progressive domino effect throughout the Commonwealth.
These are many challenges that Prince Williams will face as the future head of the Commonwealth; one that is divided on LGBT, gender and governance issues, and that is waging political war on Britain and thus against Royal Family. However, there is an aspect of the struggle the supposedly progressive Prince will have to look into: How can he galvanize the civil society groups organizing within the commonwealth to promote social justice and good governance. This is because the answer to a better, progressive and inclusive Commonwealth will not come from politicians but from the people of the Commonwealth themselves.
In a few short years, Prince Williams will be King of United Kingdom and head of the Commonwealth. While he might have his work cut out for him, we can only hope that he is brave when it comes to walking where his grandmother feared.
While the Queen has been the sweetheart of many across the Commonwealth for her peace-loving, uncontroversial approach to social justice, Prince William's stand of solidarity with the LGBT community is evidence of a more radical approach to royal engagement.
This will not go down well with many across the Commonwealth, but with his picture on the front cover of Attitude magazine, the Prince is making one thing clear -when his day does evntually come, he will be a king for all.
Words: Bisi Alimi
You can read Attitude's full feature with the Duke of Cambridge and see his exclusive shoot in Attitude’s July Issue, available to download from pocketmags.com/attitude and in shops now.
Print copies are available to order globally from newsstand.co.uk/attitude.