For a long time, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LBTI) people were subjected to discrimination, violence and stigma. LBTI rights in the UK have evolved over time. Same-sex sexual activity was characterised as “sinful” and, under the Buggery Act 1533, was outlawed and punishable by death, but through the passing of the Sexual Offences Act, 1967, consensual same-sex relationships between adult men were finally decriminalised.
Same-sex civil partnerships were legalised under the Civil Partnership Act, 2004. And later, same-sex marriage became legal under the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act in 2013.
The Equality Act 2010 forms the basis for all anti-discrimination for LBT people in the UK. Transgender people have the legal recognition of their right to self-identity through the Gender Recognition Act 2004, and following an announcement in February 2021, the UK Census on 21 March 2021 included gender for the first time for data collection and statistical analysis.
There is still some resistance by the State Party to engage on the rights of intersex people, as evidenced by the fact that they are not fully protected from discrimination or from non-consensual medical procedures.
The last State party report was submitted in 2017 and contained a lot of LBTI specific information, especially steps and measures that the state has taken to ensure LGBTI+ rights. These include equality in same sex unions and marriages and the success of the Gender Recognition Act of 2004; anti-discrimination measures like more punishment for trans hate crimes; review of evidence on the inequality amongst LGBT groups in the UK and whether public services are available to them, including ensuring public authorities provide all services to LBTI people; and lastly, an account of the Scottish government who have an inclusive definition of gender identity in its hate crime legislation and has added intersex equality to its approach to sexual orientation and gender identity equality and now uses the acronym LGBTI to support the inclusion of intersex people in Scotland.
In order to continue to progress LGBTI equality, the Scottish Government also committed in its Programme for Government 2016-17 to “review and reform gender recognition law so it is in line with international best practice for people who are transgender or intersex.
The United Kingdom received its first SOGIESC-focused recommendation from the CEDAW Committee during the 72nd Session in 2019. The Committee recommended that the State Party reviews the Public Sector Equality Duty in the Equality Act in order to address intersectional discrimination, including against LBTI women with socioeconomic inequalities.
The Committee also asked the State Party to systematically collect and publish data disaggregated by sex, gender, ethnicity, disability, and age throughout the whole of its territory to inform policy-making and assess the impact of measures taken.
The List of Issues had three SOGIESC-inclusive questions, on medical surgeries on intersex children, violence, and abuse against LBT women and girls, and gender-based harassment and bullying, particularly against trans women and girls.
Other general recommendations that can apply to all LBTI people include:
(a) ensuring that women in vulnerable situations (including sex workers) have effective access to employment opportunities, housing, and social security, and providing “women in prostitution” inclusive mechanisms to exit “prostitution”;
(b) strengthened and provide access to healthcare for all women; and
(c) provide access to justice, medical care and psychosocial support for victims of gender-based violence.