Campaigners have called for the UK Prime Minister to apologise for old anti-gay British colonial laws that are still used today to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

In 37 countries in the Commonwealth, being LGBTQ is still punishable by jail time, with many of the country’s leaders using laws imposed by Britain to persecute minorities.

They tend to exploit a false story that homosexuality is a ‘Western import’, when in fact it’s the homophobic laws that are the import.

Net week, every single leader of the Commonwealth will come to London for a biennial meeting.

All Out have launched a petition to urge Theresa May to apologise for these old anti-gay British colonial laws, in an attempt to expose the horrific reality for LGBTQ people who are still persecuted by them today, and to begin to remove them from the system.

“For each country with an anti-gay law there are lives on the line,” the petition reads. “A lesbian in Sri Lanka who can’t go to the police when she’s attacked. A gay man in Nigeria behind bars for being who he is. A gay man in Singapore who fears reporting theft and sexual assault, because he’s worried about being charged with ‘gross indecency’.

Related: The UK has a responsibility to defend the rights of LGBTQ people in the Commonwealth

“All over the Commonwealth, anti-gay persecution and violence force people to flee their homes and seek asylum.

“If thousands of us sign at once, LGBT+ rights won’t be ignored by the Commonwealth leaders as they have in the past.

“The story of the Commonwealth meeting will be about making love legal! We could make it impossible for the media to talk about the meeting without highlighting these brutal laws and bringing the spotlight on those countries who refuse to change.”

Please sign All Out’s petition here, and help them achieve their goal of 30,000 signatures.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London will take place between 16-20 April.

A total of 53 nations will “work together to promote prosperity, democracy and peace.”

The meeting hopes to “reaffirm our common values, address the shared global challenges we face and agree how to work to create a better future for all our citizens, particularly young people.”