LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday she deeply regretted Britain's role in criminalising same-sex relations in its former colonies, saying such laws, often passed under British rule and still in effect, were "wrong then and wrong now".
May was speaking at a meeting of the Commonwealth, a network of 53 mostly former-British colonies which London is looking to as a way to project Britain's influence around the world after it leaves the European Union next year.
"Across the world discriminatory laws made many years ago continue to affect the lives of many people, criminalising same sex relations and failing to protect women and girls," May said.
"I am all to aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country, They were wrong then and they are wrong now."
When the week-long Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) got underway on Monday, campaigners launched a petition calling for Britain to apologise for colonial era laws which outlaw same-sex activity in 37 of the 53 member nations. Some impose the death penalty for such offences.
"As 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 told the meeting in London.
(Reporting by William James; editing by Michael Holden)