Today (17 May) is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT). Created in 2004, IDAHOBIT represents an international coming together to stand against discrimination and bigotry.
As we take stock of global progress there are reasons to be concerned and reasons to celebrate.
Back when IDAHOBIT was launched 15 years ago same sex marriage or civil unions were legal in only a handful of places. Today, a majority of countries in four continents recognise same sex couples.
15 years ago very few countries protected our community from discrimination based on their gender identity or sexuality. Today, these laws have spread across the world.
15 years ago not enough countries recognised trans people’s gender and too many countries had mandatory sterilisation laws. Today, many countries have reversed mandatory sterilisation and allow trans people to get legal documents updated.
Progress has been made globally. It’s by an almighty effort from activists all over the world who have had the courage to stand up and change minds. Sometimes in the face of hostility and even violence.
LGBTIQA+ campaigns provide us a successful model on how to win people over and get legislators on board. From the Irish Marriage Referendum to the Stonewall riots, LGBTIQA+ social movements have demonstrated that humanising a cause and a group of people can win equal rights for their community.
But still too many countries inflict oppressive laws on their LGBTIQA+ citizens. 73 countries still ban consensual same sex activity – a majority of which are Commonwealth countries that still enforce inherited sodomy or buggery laws. 12 countries have a death penalty for simply being gay or bi–- an outrage in the 21st century.
15 countries ban any expression of gender diversity, with laws banning trans people simply existing.
And at this time of lockdown there are reasons to be concerned. This month, the UN Human Rights Commissioner had to condemn countries that are using the coronavirus crisis to persecute and strip away the rights of LGBTIQA+ people.
We’ve seen Viktor Orbán in Hungary use his political power grab to move to ban legal recognition of trans people. The new proposed section 33 represents an unprecedented attack on trans rights in Europe.
In Uganda, lockdown has been used as an excuse to resume state-backed harassment of the LGBTIQA+ community. The police have arrested, whipped and harassed LGBTIQA+ people under the guise of enforcing the lockdown.
In South America, gender-based lockdown rules have left trans people in danger. With rules only allowing men and women out on different days, trans people have faced harassment, questioning and abuse.
And here in England and Wales, lockdown is still having an impact on LGBTIQA+ people. Today, with us all in lockdown, too many face themselves stuck at home in hostile households. In the government’s LGBT+ survey, three out of every 10 respondents reported having experienced discrimination or harassment by someone they lived with.
Sadly, helplines, domestic violence services and specialist homelessness services have seen a surge in demand for support. And that’s with funding being more uncertain and a patchy government response to make up for lost funds.
As the Green Party of England and Wales we can and should use our platform to advocate for the LGBTIQA+ community here and abroad. Indeed, we have a fabulous track record of being at the forefront of equality. As a party that’s often resulted in increased support and loyalty from LGBTIQA+ voters.
Over this coming lockdown the LGBTIQA+ Greens are looking forward to working with our leaders and local parties on a few simple priorities.
We need the government to do more to fund specialist LGBTIQA+ services. Government cuts have hit hard and there just aren’t enough specialist domestic violence refuges and homeless hostels. As Greens we can champion guaranteed governmental funding streams. We also want to see better planning on how these services can be provided across regions and across the nations.
And as an internationalist party it’s part of our values to speak out about outrages abroad. As the Conservative Party turns its back on Europe we must continue to speak in tandem with our European Green sister parties to condemn outrages in Hungary. Unlike the Tories we advocate for a human rights-based foreign policy that puts people before weapon sales and militarism.
The basic belief that no one should face discrimination or violence is a fundamental Green policy. This IDAHOBIT we are part of a global movement advocating equal rights.