Global LGBT Rights

Part of Modern Slavery Act 2015 – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 26th October 2017.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 4:45 pm, 26th October 2017

We will consult on the content of relationships and sex education shortly, but we want to ensure that it is LGBT-inclusive.

We announced in July that the Government also want to consult on reforming the Gender Recognition Act to ensure that we are providing the best possible support for transgender people. We know that many trans people now find the focus on medical checks in the gender recognition process very intrusive and stigmatising. In July, the Government launched a national LGBT survey, to help us to understand the experiences of all LGBT people in the UK. The survey closed earlier this month and the response we received was unprecedented, with well over 100,000 responses. That makes it one of the largest surveys of its kind in the world. The survey will be hugely important in policy development on LGBT issues.

One area of focus for the all-party group was LGBT asylum seekers, an issue also raised by Stuart C. McDonald. We are focusing on building an inclusive society. An important element of that is ensuring that Britain is a safe haven for those who may be experiencing persecution and abuse because they are LGBT. We must ensure that LGBT people seeking to escape extreme discrimination are safe in this country while their claims are processed. In September last year, the Government introduced the “adult at risk” concept into decision making on immigration. This concept acts on the assumption that vulnerable people who may be at risk of particular harm in detention should not be detained. That builds on the existing legal framework already in place. We have worked closely with organisations such as Stonewall, the UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group and the UN High Commission for Refugees to develop guidance and training for staff in detention centres. We continue to liaise with these groups to consider what further improvements can be made.

As a world leader on LGBT equality, this country has a moral duty to work to improve the lives of LGBT people living in other countries. It is sadly the case that homosexuality is still illegal in 72 countries and punishable by death in eight. The Government remain committed to working with like-minded countries and with the Equal Rights Coalition, of which the UK is a founding member, to stand up for LGBT rights internationally. At the very highest levels of government, we are challenging those who inflict or allow discrimination against LGBT people. We urge those countries that continue to criminalise same-sex relations to take steps towards decriminalisation, and we urge all countries to ensure that they have legislation that protects LGBT people from all forms of discrimination.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs raised the issue of funding of local LGBT groups internationally. We have committed over £1.6 million from the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy to projects working to promote and protect LGBT rights. That includes about £350,000 for the UN Free & Equal campaign. Last year, the UK supported the establishment of the UN’s first ever independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, and we vigorously defended his mandate when it was challenged by other states. We truly regret the resignation of the independent expert due to ill health and commend Professor Muntarbhorn for his work. It is vital that a successor be found quickly to continue this important work. We will continue to support that mandate.

My hon. Friends the Members for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) and for Eastleigh (Mims Davies) raised the issue of rainbow flags. We are proud to fly the rainbow flag on our buildings both at home and abroad for key events in the LGBT calendar, such as Pride. We work closely with our heads of mission around the world to ensure that flags are flown. We will continue to do so. I hope the flag will be flown in as many countries as possible.