We must come together to make the UK a world leader on LGBT+ rights once more
Every June, countries around the world celebrate Pride Month. We honour those who fought and indeed continue to fight to end anti-LGBT+ discrimination and oppression, as well as celebrating the value and power of human diversity.
However, Pride Month also shines a light on the challenges LGBT+ people face and what must be done by United Kingdom government, parliamentarians and the country as a whole to achieve genuine equality at the domestic and international level.
One year ago, we proudly took up the role of co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights. We work with our members and partners, including our secretariat Kaleidoscope Trust, to ensure LGBT+ rights remain part of the government's agenda and national conversation on human rights.
Despite securing a commitment to ban conversion practices, four years on this is yet to become a reality
There is much to celebrate this Pride Month with a record number of countries decriminalising LGBT+ people and relationships. Just last year, same-sex activity was decriminalised in Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Singapore and Barbados, with more likely to follow. Equal marriage legislation has progressed across the world – including in Cuba, Slovenia and Mexico last year – meaning 33 countries now have equal marriage laws. This is in no small part due to LGBT+ activists on the ground who work tirelessly in dangerous and often life-threatening conditions.
But such wins can never be taken for granted. In many countries, hard-won rights are being taken away as increasingly hostile anti-human rights campaigns across the world target the LGBT+ community to drive wedges in our society. In Ghana and Uganda, we have seen some of the most brutal examples of anti-LGBT+ legislation in modern history. A record number of anti-LGBT+ bills are being introduced in the United States in quick succession. In Europe, countries like Hungary have passed legislation banning LGBT+ representation in spheres such as education and media.
As co-chairs, we have met with parliamentarians and activists from many countries including Hungary, Nepal, Namibia, Kenya, Jamaica, Fiji, Ghana and Uganda – where the need for increased, sustainable funding of international LGBT+ rights work is consistently raised.
But the United Kingdom government’s funding of international LGBT+ rights has dropped significantly in recent years, at a time where funding from governments as a whole has increased, as demonstrated in the work by organisations like Baring Foundation. This takes place against the backdrop of a growing, organised anti-gender movement that seeks to undermine LGBT+ and reproductive rights, incredibly well-funded by private donors, non-profits and religious actors from the UK, US and Russia.
Closer to home, despite significant milestones such as equal marriage and LGBT+ adoption, real barriers to equality remain. We know from Home Office figures that anti-LGBT+ hate crime is rapidly rising, increasingly by 41 per cent for sexual orientation and 56 per cent for trans identity since last year – the latter being the highest rise across all protected characteristics. Despite securing a commitment to ban conversion practices, four years on this is yet to become a reality, leaving many vulnerable to these cruel, degrading practices that contravene fundamental human rights.
These domestic events have international ramifications. In 2015, the UK was ranked as the best country in Europe in relation to LGBT+ equality and human rights. Since then, we have slowly been slipping down the ranks and as of last month dropped from 14th to 17th place.
However, despite the challenges we face domestically, and internationally, perhaps the most rewarding part of our role is facilitating cross-party collaboration on these issues. When we come together on LGBT+ rights, we are stronger. As we enter into the lead up to a general election, we must focus on being united rather than divided on the fundamental need for LGBT+ people to be protected and respected for who they are. We hope to see the UK back on track to becoming an international leader on LGBT+ equality in the years to come.
Angela Eagle, Labour MP for Wallasey. Elliot Colburn, Conservative MP for Carshalton and Wallington. They are co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights
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