Let's not forget LGBT+ people living in poverty this #EndPovertyDay

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

LGBT+ people around the world are at particular risk of poverty because of discrimination based on SOGIESC, including the lack of access of legal gender recognition, criminalisation of same-sex activity, and the absence of LGBTI-specific anti-discrimination measures.

Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or sex characteristics often impact one’s access to the labour market, to police protection, to ability to secure stable housing, ability to receive a quality education and healthcare, or rely on family for support.

As the UN Independent Expert on SOGI Victor Madrigal-Borloz has pointed out:

Poverty is a scourge that affects disproportionally some populations and communities, among them #LGTB. Barriers created by negation and stigma are chief factors propel lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and GD [gender diverse] persons into spirals of exclusion.

Earlier this year, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) organised an event entitled "A poverty perspective on LGBTI", stating that:

People within the LGBTI community often struggle with poverty in disproportionate and complex ways due to their multiple and intersecting identities, while facing structural and societal norms.

In Ghana, to take only one example, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Phillip Alston, has highlighted how stigma makes LGBT+ people vulnerable to extreme poverty.

Stigmatization and discrimination make it impossible for them to become productive members of the community because when people know they are a LGBTI person they are thrown out from jobs, schools, homes and even from their community. Some of them choose to hide their sexual orientation and gender identity and are pushed to marry against their will; others leave their homes and communities to find new opportunities and start a new life. Discrimination against LGBTI people makes them vulnerable to extreme poverty and LGBTI people living in poverty experience intersecting forms of discrimination that prevent the full enjoyment of their human rights.

Human Rights Watch reporting echoed Alston’s findings:

Conversations I had with numerous LGBT people in Ghana underscored the urgency of legalizing adult consensual same-sex conduct. For example, a 26-year-old lesbian described the frustration she felt when her employer fired her after he found out she was a lesbian. A 28-year-old lesbian echoed these sentiments, saying “the problem in Accra is that LGBT people can’t get jobs, nobody wants to hire them, and when family members find out about your sexual orientation, they don’t pay your school fees.”

It is crucial to take specific measures to ensure that the realities of LGBT+ people are included in policies which aim to fight poverty.

Want to learn more?

Lord Collins of Highbury raises LGBT+ rights in Commonwealth in Queen's Speech Debate

During the Queen’s Speech debate today in the House of Lords, APPG Treasurer Lord Collins of Highbury questioned the Government on their human rights commitments and work on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and particularly LGBT+ rights, calling for a greater effort to ensure the decriminalisation of homosexuality across the Commonwealth.

If, as the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, argued yesterday, the UK’s foreign policy is to be used to promote our values and not only our commercial interests, then I would have expected a greater focus on human rights and a review of the Government’s regime for arms exports.

He added that there should be more consistency between the FCO and the DIT with regards to human rights positions:

As the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, said yesterday, we have an FCO condemning human rights abuses and a Department for International Trade supporting closer relationships—constant mixed messages.

In terms of the UK’s role as Commonwealth chair-in-office, he said that:

Many noble Lords mentioned the role of the Commonwealth, and I certainly recognise its importance. It is a family of nations that, through its charter, provides the means to promote the values of democracy, transparency, the rule of law and human rights. The Minister the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, referred to our role as chair-in-office, but where are we on the commitments we made at the end of CHOGM? Despite some progress, we still have Commonwealth countries where LGBT people face not only discrimination and anti-gay laws but increased violence. I hope that, in the Minister’s response, we can have greater detail as to how we are supporting efforts to ensure the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Lord Collins also raised the Government’s approach to the SDGs. Many have argued that the SDGs can also be a powerful tool for LGBT+ inclusion.

If the Government were serious about Britain’s part in creating a just, safe, secure and sustainable planet, free from the fear of hunger and poverty, then I would have expected a clear focus in the gracious Speech on the United Nations 2030 agenda, building a unified approach to deliver the sustainable development goals and to ensure that we leave nobody behind. The Government could have used the gracious Speech to signal a new approach to the SDGs by creating a new policy unit in No. 10 dedicated to them, with a Cabinet Minister responsible for co-ordinating across Whitehall.

The full transcript can be found here.

The full video is here.

APPG Marks International Pronouns Day

Today is the second International Pronouns Day.

What is International Pronouns Day?

International Pronouns Day seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace. Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Why do pronouns matter?

By displaying your pronoun in your email signature, for example, you send the message to your interlocutors that you want your pronouns and your gender identity to be respected. You also show your willingness to do the same for others. It helps to create a culture where pronouns and gender identities are asked rather than assumed, and all gender identities are respected and celebrated. 

What can you do to be more inclusive of diverse gender identities?

Stonewall has some great guidelines:

✔️ When you introduce yourself, also introduce your pronoun. This can remind people it may not always be obvious what pronoun someone uses.

✔️ Put your pronouns in your email signature and/or social media profile

✔️ Try to avoid addressing groups or people with gendered language, e.g., instead of using ‘Ladies and Gentleman’, use the word ‘everyone’ to address a group.

✔️ If you’re not sure what someone’s pronouns are, ask them.

✔️ If you accidentally misgender someone, just apologise to them and then move on using their correct pronoun.

Concerning figures from Home Office show rise in LGBT+ hate crime

Today the Home Office released statistics on reported Hate Crime in England and Wales over the period 2018/19 which show a marked increase of reported hate crime.

Key results from the report include:

  • There were 103,379 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2018/19, an increase of ten per cent compared with 2017/18 (94,121 offences). While increases in hate crime over the last five years have been mainly driven by improvements in crime recording by the police, there has been spikes in hate crime following certain events such as the EU Referendum and the terrorist attacks in 2017.

  • The majority of hate crimes were race hate crimes, accounting for around three quarters of offences (76%; 78,991 offences). These increased by 11 per cent between 2017/18 and 2018/19.

  • Religious hate crimes increased by three per cent (to 8,566 offences), sexual orientation hate crimes increased 25 per cent (to 14,491), disability hate crimes by 14 per cent (to 8,256) and transgender identity hate crimes by 37 per cent (to 2,333).

  • Around twelve per cent of hate crime offences in 2018/19 were estimated to have involved more than one motivating factor, the majority of these were hate crimes related to both race and religion.

  • Over half (54%) of the hate crimes recorded by the police were for public order offences3 and a further third (36%) were for violence against the person offences. Five per cent were recorded as criminal damage and arson offences.

Today Galop, the LGBT+ Anti-Violence Charity also released their annual Hate Crime Report 2019; indicating that even in 2019, there are alarming levels of prejudice towards LGBT+ people, especially among young people.

  • 1 in 10 people thought that LGBT+ people were ‘dangerous’ to other people.

  • 1 in 10 people said that being LGBT+ could be ‘cured’.

  • 1 in 5 people said being LGBT+ was ‘immoral or against their beliefs’. This rose to 1 in 4 among 18-24 year olds, higher than other age groups.

  • Around 3 in 5 people responded very positively about having LGBT+ people as neighbours. 1 in 5 people showed reluctance to the idea of LGB+ neighbours, and more than 1 in 4 to trans neighbours.

  • 1 in 2 people agreed that hate crime has higher impact than other types of crime, and that LGBT+ people modify their behaviour in public to avoid being targeted.

  • However, only 4 in 10 thought that violence against LGBT+ people is a problem in the UK

The polling was based on a representative sample of 1,617 people from across the UK. 

MPs debate racism and homophobia in football

Today Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP asked an urgent question to the the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the racist abuse that was aimed at England players in their match against Bulgaria.

The APPG welcomes this important question, and applauds the several members who raised the ongoing issue of homophobia in sport and its intersections with the pervasive racism within football (previously debated in both Houses several times this year). We welcome the Minister’s stated support to address this.

APPG Member Luke Pollard’s question is below:

As a very proud “out” football player in my youth—I was fabulous in defence and more fabulous than good at stopping surges down the right wing—I recognise that the people who gave me homophobic abuse were frequently the same as those who gave out racist and misogynistic abuse as well. May I ask the Minister what steps he can take to encourage clubs right across the country to show in our games this weekend that there is no place for racism or homophobia at the international or the grassroots level anywhere in our country?

Damian Collins MP contributed:

I completely support the comments from Members on both sides of the House on how UEFA should demonstrate that real sanctions will be applied against national FAs that allow this to happen in their stadiums. Does the Minister agree that the Government’s proposals to legislate on online harms is an opportunity to look at the vile racist abuse that many footballers in this country receive on social media, which is a growing problem, and that we should look again at the status of homophobic abuse in sports stadiums in this country, too? There are big concerns about the increase in homophobia, and we should look again at the Football (Offences) Act 1991 to make homophobic abuse illegal in the same way as racist abuse so that both have the same status in law.

The full transcript can be found here.

The Commons Library did a briefing on the same topic ahead of an Opposition Day debate on Racism in sport which took place on Wednesday 22 May 2019.

Baroness Barker questions the Government on protecting the rights of LGBT people & minorities in trade deals

Yesterday APPG Vice Chair Baroness Barker spoke in the House of Lords during a debate on human rights and future trade deals. She asked the Government whether future trade deals will include commitments to the rights of LGBT and other minority communities and whether the deals will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

Her full speech is below:

My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, to her position. She and I have had many an interesting discussion on the subject of equal rights and I look forward to continuing that in the Chamber as well as outside. I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for calling this debate, which draws attention to a part of the Brexit process that has received very little comment but is, for some of us, extremely important. I say that as a person who, as a citizen of this country, owes my equality—as a member of the LGBT community—to a string of court judgments that were fought tooth and nail by Governments of this country of different political persuasions. The European courts have been a source of great comfort to some of us from different minority groups and we are very fearful that we might have to live within a future where that protection is removed. I do not need to remind the noble Baroness that three times since 2016, the Conservative Party has announced that it will retain the Human Rights Act until 2020, at which point it will be replaced by what it refers to as “a British Bill of Rights”.

We are told that those rights will be equivalent but I have some fears, from where I stand, given the correlation between Members of another place who support Brexit and those who have been opponents of equality for people like me. There is a great deal of fear in our community that we will be in no position to tell the rest of the world how to maintain human rights, and that at a future point we may well diverge dramatically from a growing body of European law passed in the light of future judgments. I say that as somebody who has in recent years been able to see for myself the good effect that membership of the European Union has had in places such as the Balkans or in the Baltic countries, which, in order to meet accession terms, have had to put in place laws protecting the rights of minorities. I fear that leaving the European Union—if that were to happen—would undermine that quite considerably.

I follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, in saying that I do not think any kind of theoretical commitment to human rights really matters; it is their practical effect. In our community, we are beginning to gather growing evidence to show that those countries with a good legal basis for equality—and have good practice of equality—actually benefit from it in economic terms. Conversely, it is possible to draw a direct correlation between those with human rights abuses. As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said, there is considerable concern about leaving our largest market, in which the people with whom we trade are bound by common standards and laws in relation to equalities. I am sure we do business with some countries that have dreadful human rights. We do a great deal of business with countries with dreadful human rights records, but they are not now a sufficiently significant part of our trade to override our laws. We wonder whether they might be in future. We are talking, at the end of the day, about the capacity of people to start businesses and build jobs, here and abroad.

I want briefly to follow up the point of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, about future scrutiny. I have a very personal view. When human rights are under threat, we have to be as vigilant as a hawk. There is much that this House needs to do to scrutinise future trade deals. Having done some research, as it stands there is only one example of an international trade deal that recognises gender identity and sexual orientation as grounds for discrimination in its labour chapter, and contains measures to ensure that these grounds are enforceable. It is, would you believe, Article 23.9 of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which says:

The Parties recognize the goal of eliminating discrimination in employment and occupation, and support the goal of promoting equality of women in the workplace. Accordingly, each Party shall implement policies that it considers appropriate to protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex (including with regard to sexual harassment), pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and caregiving responsibilities; provide job-protected leave for birth or adoption of a child and care of family members; and protect against wage discrimination”.

My questions are as follows. Can we look forward—once we get beyond the platitudes we hear from some on the Government Benches that the level of rights and protections we have will, of course, in future be at least equivalent to what it is now—to a time when we have commitments of that kind in our trade agreements? Will we have a mechanism by which Members of both Houses of Parliament can scrutinise those agreements, not just when they are drawn up but when they are implemented? Or do we, as I fear, run the risk that the rights of people like me might just end up on the bonfire of some kind of ERG-DUP Brexit?

Lord Harries of Pentregarth (Crossbench), who proposed the debate, also mentioned LGBT+ rights, commenting that;

Then there is the denial of basic rights for LGBT people in so many Commonwealth countries. This too we must not forget but must work for changes in the laws of those countries. We cannot accept that there is freedom for LGBT people in one country but not in others. […]

With the continuing denial of human rights in so many countries, it may be that any British Government would get weary of raising these issues with the Governments concerned. We must not get weary or shrug our shoulders. If those suffering individuals do not have a voice through us, where will they have one? We must continue to press for the observance of human rights wherever they are denied, even when we are anxious to trade with the countries concerned. After Brexit, this House and the other place will have a particular responsibility to scrutinise trade agreements, to ensure that maximising trade is not done at the expense of ignoring human rights considerations.

Intersex/VSC Issues raised in the UK Parliament for the first time

On Monday 9 September, APPG Vice Chair Baroness Barker raised intersex issues for the first time in the UK Parliament, asking an oral question on what the government is doing to uphold the rights of all intersex VSC people in the UK.

Peers raised the issue of unnecessary surgery on intersex infants and children, the lack of data surrounding intersex people and the types of interventions performed in NHS hospitals, the need to update the Equality Act 2010 to include variations of sex characteristics, the importance of ensuring appropriate training and awareness raising on intersex issues for health professionals and public officials, including legislators, the judiciary and policymakers, as well as parents and the general public, and the need for more child and adolescent psychiatrists with expertise on intersex issues.

You can watch the video.

You can read the full transcript from Hansard.

Parliaments can play a part in advancing LGBT+ rights around the world, writes APPG Chair

OPINION: After Pride we must stand with LGBT+ campaigners around the world

by Nick Herbert | UK Member of Parliament

Seeing tens of thousands of people take part in Pride events across the globe is truly heartening.

Yet this is a tale of two worlds.

Pride marches have been banned in Istanbul and cancelled in Tbilisi. In Egypt, citizens have been arrested merely for flying the rainbow flag. Sixty-nine countries still punish same-sex intimacy as a criminal offence, punishable by death in 11 of them.

Even where homosexuality is legal, there is no legal protection at all for LGBT+ people in more than 50 countries and some – such as Russia – have “propaganda” laws that prohibit public self-expression.

In recent months, we have seen HIV workers arrested and detained in Tanzania, the torture and even murder of gay men in Chechnya, and an attempt by Brunei to introduce the death penalty for consensual sexual acts between men.

In too many jurisdictions, neither international human rights law nor the courts have been effective in protecting LGBT+ citizens. Russia is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. Only last month, Kenya’s High Court rejected the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Bulgaria, a member of the EU, has removed the right for transgender people to change their names or gender markers on official documents.

Understandably, we focus on the evidence of human rights breaches, but we need to appreciate the drivers of discrimination. The uncomfortable truth is that, too often, religious fundamentalism lies behind regressive attitudes towards LGBT+ people.

Evangelical church leaders licence politicians in South America and sub-Saharan Africa to take prejudicial stances that are completely at odds with the Christian teaching of love. Hostility to LGBT+ people surfaces in communities where Islamic fundamentalism is taking a hold, and not just in Asia and Africa.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights in the UK, which I chair, will shortly launch a major inquiry into religion and LGBT+ rights, recognising that we need to understand better the positive role which faith can play in promoting love and acceptance, as well the negative.

Yet we should not be despondent. In many other countries across the world there have been amazing and rapid advances in LGBT+ rights.

In some, reform has been through the courts, such as the landmark Supreme Court decisions to enshrine rights in Brazil, or to allow equal marriage in the US, or to repeal discriminatory laws in India. In others, referendums have won the day, such as the plebiscites for equal marriage in Ireland and Australia. But parliaments can play their part, too.

The National Assembly in Angola has decriminalised same-sex relations and introduced broad legal protections for LGBT+ people, particularly in employment. Legislators in Taiwan have approved same-sex marriage, becoming the first place in Asia to achieve marriage equality.

Laws in Portugal have made it easier for transgender people to change their legal gender without medical or state intervention and have banned unnecessary surgery on intersex children. The parliament of Bhutan is currently in the process of decriminalising homosexuality.

Last month at the United Nations, I launched the first ever international grouping of parliamentarians and elected representatives dedicated to tackling discrimination against LGBT+ people. The Global Equality Caucus has already brought together politicians from more than 25 countries in every region of the world, including the global south, in a unique forum to advocate for improvements in LGBT+ legislation.

Our launch coincided with the WorldPride 2019 celebrations and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, a reminder that injustice can be confronted.

Across the world, brave campaigners are speaking out for LGBT+ people. We must strengthen their stand, united by our belief that human rights are universal, and equality should be for all.

First published here on Openly, a part of the Thomas Reuters Foundation.

APPG to host briefing for MPs and staff ahead of IDAHOBIT debate in House of Commons

Ahead of a debate in the House of Commons to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) secured by our chair Nick Herbert MP and supported by APPG Officers Peter Kyle MP, Crispin Blunt MP, and Stewart McDonald MP,  the APPG will host a drop-in oral briefing with NGOs working on LGBTI issues globally and domestically on the morning of 16 May between 9-10.30am. 

For more information or to attend please contact the APPG's researcher and coordinator Anna Robinson (anna.robinson@appglgbt.org).