Global LGBT Rights

Part of Modern Slavery Act 2015 – in the House of Commons at 3:23 pm on 26th October 2017.

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Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee 3:23 pm, 26th October 2017

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Evans, who is a fellow member of the Select Committee on International Development. I welcome today’s debate, thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting it and congratulate Nick Herbert. In particular, I thank the range of non-governmental organisations, based both in the UK and in other countries, and global ones such as Amnesty International, for their assistance.

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of section 28. Just three decades ago, this Parliament and this Chamber carried discriminatory legislation. We can learn something from the past 30 years, because after section 28 was passed there was a renewal of LGBT organisations in this country, including the formation of the Stonewall group, lesbian and gay organisations in our trade union movement, and lesbian and gay campaigns within political parties.

The Labour campaign for lesbian and gay rights, now known as LGBT Labour, played a critical role in what became Labour’s 1997 manifesto. There are lessons from that experience in the UK for today’s debate, because what happened was that this place listened to LGBT communities themselves. That needs to be our starting point when looking at global LGBT rights. In the briefing that the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs arranged earlier, somebody said, “Change has to come from below.” In a world where there are still 13 countries where being gay is punishable by death and 75 where same-sex contact remains a criminal offence, the challenges are enormous.

I welcome the policy paper on LGBT rights that the Department for International Development published last year, particularly its focus on how the realisation of human rights underpins sustainable development and, importantly, the need to identify and engage with the southern voices that are beginning to emerge on LGBT issues. Two years ago, the world agreed the sustainable development goals, whose theme is, “Leave no one behind.” Inclusion must mean non-discrimination, but if we are to achieve the SDGs on health, we need to be able to reach all communities, including LGBT communities.