This article was published on May 18th, 2021
The United Kingdom government’s first-ever gloval conference on LGBTQ+ rights is set for London next year, and ministers are working hard to ensure that pledges are fulfilled for the international 42-country Equal Rights Coalition (ERC).
Entitled ‘Safe To Be Me’, the event is expected to be the biggest of its kind, with elected officials, policymakers, and activists, throughout the wolrd participating across two days in June 2022, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first official London Pride marches. The former Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs, now Lord Nick Herbert, has been named chair of the event and will be the special envoy to the prime minister on LGBTQ+ rights.
The mission of the conference is to champion equal rights for all both at home and abroad, with ministers claiming it will execute progress on legislative reform, tackle violence and discrimination, and ensure equal access to public services for LGBTQ+ people. Herbert added:
“It will be the first time that a global event on this scale – including parliamentarians – has been held, and I hope it will help to drive collective action for real change.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the 2021 Rainbow Europe Map revealing a widespread stagnation on human rights for LGBTQ+ people across Europe over the past year. A full survey of the year was recently published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, which ranked 49 countries and detailed a disturbing standstill on policy and legislative progress, with a marked increase in LGTBQ-phobic political and hatred repression.
Since Boris Johnson has taken the helm as Prime Minister of the UK, the government has been widely criticized by human rights and LGBTQ+ activists for rolling back the rights of trans people. Earlier in the week, new voter registration laws were announced in the Queen’s speech, which many derided as “divisive and discriminatory”, specifically by lawyers at Liberty, who have balked at plans to force voters to carry photo identification, a move that would disproportionately affect minorities, including trans and non-gender-conforming people.
The government also repealed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) which would have allowed allow trans people to self-identify. Stonewall’s chief executive, Nancy Kelley, called the move “a shocking failure in leadership” and a “missed a key opportunity to progress LGBT equality.”
The United Kingdom took over as co-chair of the global Equal Rights Coalition alongside Argentina in July 2019, and the expectation is for the launch of a comprehensive five-year strategy to increase international action to defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people worldwide. The ‘Safe To Be Me’ conference has been designed to meet that commitment and is being worked on by the Government Equality Office and the Foreign Office. The minister for woman and equalities, Liz Truss, stated:
“This conference will take aim at the prejudices LGBT people still face, and look at the collective action we can take to tackle those injustices alongside our international friends and partners. People should be judged based on their individual character and talents alone, and we want to ensure that this message is heard around the world.”
According to Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, next year’s conference stands as the most opportune time to promote progressive values. He added: “The right to live life without fear and persecution are the bedrock of inclusive and open societies and the UK, as a force for good, will protect and promote these values at home and around the world.”
How effective these objectives are will be closely watched by LGBTQ+ groups around the world as they will affect every aspect of those that live under the umbrella for years to come. Stay tuned to HomoCulture as we continue to report on any updates in the fight for equality.