There has been a lot of progress over the last 30 years in the fight for equality. Stonewall is celebrating its 30-year anniversary after being founded in the campaign against Section 28 of the Local Government Act, legislation designed to prevent the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools. Thankfully people can now no longer be sacked for being openly LGBT+, and can now serve in the military, marry a same-sex partner or adopt a child.
But the fight for equality is far from over. Although public attitudes have changed in the last 30 years, there’s been a new wave of worrying rhetoric. This risks going backwards on those hard-fought LGBT+ rights worldwide – just look at Northern Ireland, where we still do not have marriage equality. In order to protect these rights and achieve further equality, more needs to be done – a responsibility that the Labour Party takes very seriously.
Recently, there has been a backlash to the new relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons in schools and about the ‘morality’ of teaching about LGBT+ people’s existence. With almost half of LGBT+ pupils and more than half of trans pupils experiencing bullying in schools, it is vital that we support teachers in delivering this curriculum. The Department for Education needs clear guidelines on what is expected from schools, and to ensure that teachers have the resources to deliver this.
When it comes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), last year the government announced a consultation to provide crucial updates to the law. The current GRA is outdated and demeaning, making the process needlessly hard for trans people. The consultation on the GRA has closed but the government has not yet published its findings. Labour is calling on the government to provide an update on timelines for when they will publish the findings, along with their plans for next steps. The government urgently needs to reaffirm its commitment to reform the now out-of-date GRA.
And when it comes to hate crime, a 2017 Stonewall report found that one in five LGBT+ people experienced a hate crime or incident due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months. Labour will bring the law on LGBT+ hate crimes into line with hate crimes based on race and faith, by making them aggravated offences.
The UK government must ensure it responds to the Law Commission’s review into hate crime legislation in a timely way. And police forces should improve training to all police officers and frontline staff so they can identify and record homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crimes, better support victims and bring perpetrators to justice.
When it comes to healthcare, in January Matt Hancock pledged to double places on the PrEP Impact Trial. This promise has still not been fulfilled. Labour will put right the government’s failings and roll out the HIV prevention pill PrEP nationwide.
Britain’s first ever LGBT+ health adviser has backed calls to roll out the HIV prevention pill nationwide. The new LGBT+ health adviser is welcome, but we need a commitment from the government that this will be a long-term role, rather than the current 12-month commitment, and that the brief will cover all aspects of LGBT+ rights.
Internationally, the recent events in Brunei – where its government sought to implement laws which would see LGBT+ people executed – was a wake-up call: the human rights of LGBT+ people are under threat. It is vital that the world does not go backwards. No one should face death because of who they love.
While we welcome the Sultan’s recent announcement of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, we need the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth to demand Brunei drops this inhumane law for good and ensure stronger guarantees that cruel penalties such as whipping, amputations and imprisonment will end.
On this day, we must continue to stand in solidarity with LGBT+ communities in the UK and around the world. There is clearly much work still to be done. The last Labour government did more than any other in British history to advance LGBT+ equality, and the next one will go even further. We must stand together because equality is equality. You don’t have to be part of the LGBT+ community yourself to fight for their rights as strongly as you fight for your own.