UK Parliament marks IDAHOTB with debate on LGBT+ rights
On May 17 the House of Commons marked International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOTB) with a debate on LGBT+ rights in the UK and around the world.
Currently over 70 countries worldwide criminalise consensual same-sex acts between men, with over 40 criminalising female same-sex intimacy. Even in countries where homosexuality is legal, such as Russia, deep stigmatisation and persecution persist. Discrimination in education, health and employment is still widespread, with lesbians, bi women and trans people being particularly vulnerable. Even in the UK, LGBT+ people continue to face hate, discrimination, with so many still too afraid to hold their partner’s hand in public. This has got to change.
To mark IDAHOTB, the new Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mordaunt MP, reaffirmed the government’s commitment to launching the consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2005 (GRA). In 2017, the former Equalities Minister, Justine Greening, announced plans to review the 2004 law, which allows transgender people to gain recognition by changing their legal documents – but the process has since been delayed multiple times.
These delays have allowed space for anti-trans campaigns and sensationalist media coverage to thrive, spreading misinformation and hate. Kaleidoscope Trust recently joined 34 pro-LGBT+ organisations and individuals, including representatives from Amnesty International, Mermaids and Stonewall, to call for the government to commit to the consultation.
This month, ILGA Europe launched its annual Rainbow Index, which analyses legal and social inequalities relating to sexual orientation and gender identity across Europe. While the UK topped this list in 2012, this year Britain fell to fourth in the rankings. Malta topped the list for the third year running. The Index reveals a worrying lack of progress across Europe in terms of LGBT+ rights and protections.
With MPs from all major parties participating, it was heartening to see the concerns of LGBT+ people across the world being discussed.
During the debate Victoria Atkins, Minister for Women, discussed the national LGBT+ survey that was launched in 2017. She said that it had the "largest response ever" with over 108,000 people responding. The results will be published in the coming weeks.
Dawn Butler, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, congratulated Kaleidoscope Trust for hosting the largest contingent of LGBT+ activists ever to participate in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018. Noting the UK’s drop to fourth place in Europe on ILGA’s Rainbow Index, Butler said:
"We cannot and we must not go backwards, we have to support change - we must get our domestic laws in order so that we can strive to make progress and make the world better"
.@DawnButlerBrent - "In the last 4 years, the UK has fallen from 1st to 4th place in terms of leading #LGBT rights in Europe - the government needs to do more". #IDAHOBIT2018 pic.twitter.com/bUqxezmcY3— Kaleidoscope Trust (@Kaleidoscope_T) May 17, 2018
Conservative MP Nick Herbert discussed LGBT+ rights in the Commonwealth, drawing a link between regressive anti-LGBT+ policies and spiralling HIV rates. He said:
"The majority of the population of the Commonwealth live in countries where same sex conduct is criminalised. The UK government must be cognisant that it can and should do more"
Labour MP Stephen Doughty praised activists from the Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN), a network co-founded by Kaleidoscope Trust that became the first LGBT+ network to receive Commonwealth accreditation in 2017. After meeting TCEN activists, he said:
"They set an example that there is hope and that we can fight for equality against the evils of this world"
Amongst the discussion of international issues, which is at the forefront of Kaleidoscope Trust’s work, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts also noted the challenges faced by LGBT+ people in the UK.
"We are living in a time of increased bigotry - difference is being seized on as a weapon of division and unfettered hate speech is opening for a rise in violence and hate crime"
.@CrispinBlunt discussing recent Beirut Pride closure "the organiser was arrested on Monday night, spent 12 hours in jail and then was allowed out only if he cancelled the event, I very much hope that we will take this up with the Lebanese authorities". #LGBT #IDAHOBIT2018 pic.twitter.com/e7IvvzbGul— Kaleidoscope Trust (@Kaleidoscope_T) May 17, 2018
Home Office figures show that recorded hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity increased by 27 per cent and 45 per cent between 2015/16 and 2016/17. Stonewall research reveals that just one in five instances of LGBT+ hate crime are reported. Shockingly, 40 per cent of trans people in the UK have been the victim of hate crime.
.@HannahB4LiviMP "Taking so long to come out had a huge impact on my mental health. It's important that we recognise that there are many young people in the UK and beyond who suffer serious mental health problems as a result of being discriminated against". #IDAHOBIT2018 #LGBT— Kaleidoscope Trust (@Kaleidoscope_T) May 17, 2018
To alleviate these inequalities in the UK and across the world, we believe that listening to activists and amplifying their voices is essential. With successful decriminalisation efforts in Trinidad and Tobago and Belize in recent years, and with similar cases underway in Kenya, progress is constantly happening.
Reacting to the Commons debate, Kaleidoscope Trust’s Executive Director Paul Dillane said:
"In the UK we have a precious cross-party consensus in support of LGBT+ equality. To mark IDAHOTB, we welcome positive interventions in this debate by MPs from across the political spectrum.
However, in four years the UK has drifted from being the leading country on ILGA Europe’s Rainbow Index to fourth place. Domestically, we must make it easier for trans people to self-identify, extend marriage equality to all parts of the UK and ensure that LGBT+ asylum seekers are genuinely protected.
The UK’s commitment to be a global leader on LGBT+ rights must be matched by effective action if we are to ensure genuine equality is a reality for all LGBT+ people"