David Cameron: I want to change the world on global LGBT rights

Prime Minister David Cameron has lamented the UK losing its top ranking on LGBT rights issues in Europe – pledging to push equality across the world as he celebrates the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

For four years, rights group ILGA-Europe put the United Kingdom at the top of its extensive rankings Rainbow Europe system on LGBT equality.

Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly cited the UK’s ranking in the past, saying: “Together we should be proud to live in a country judged to be the best place in Europe if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans.”

However, amid increasingly progressive laws relating to gender and sexuality around Europe, the UK has now slid to third – behind Malta and Belgium.

Speaking at a Downing Street reception for IDAHOT this week, PM David Cameron lamented the slide in rankings and pledged: “I want this top spot back again.”

Addressing LGBT activists and figures from across the political spectrum, he also set an “ambitious” target to “change the world” on the issue by advocating for global LGBT rights.

Read his address below:

We are celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

When I was looking into how the date was chosen, the 17th of May, it is so striking that that date was chosen on 17th May 1990 – when the World Health Organisation stopped describing homosexuality as a mental disorder.

It really made me think, not how long ago that was but how little time ago that was – how much has changed since and how much needed to change in that time.

I think it’s really important we do have this commemoration and remember how much has changed, as well as how much more needs to change.

Last year, I’d have been able to say how proud I was to be Prime Minister of what was officially the best country in Europe to be gay, bisexual or transgender – but that’s no longer the case.

Malta has overtaken us! I don’t know quite what happened – I’ve got to get out to Malta and find out because I want this top spot back again.

We need to look at all of the issues faced by the LGBT community and work out what more we can do. I would break it down really into four different things.

There’s the changes in the law that can make a difference. I’m very proud that we went for it with same-sex marriages.

I went to a White House ball with my good friend President Obama back when we had passed same-sex marriage but the Americans hadn’t, and I really enjoyed all these Democrat fundraisers and bigwigs from around the US coming up to Obama and saying ‘Barack, why can’t you do what this Tory is doing in England?’.
David Cameron: I want to change the world on global LGBT rights
A lot has changed since then.

Changing the law matters, and we made a promise in our manifesto that we will fulfil of making sure it’s not just Alan Turing that gets a pardon but anyone [convicted under historic anti-gay laws]. We will fulfil that, it was an important manifesto pledge.

The second thing, as well as changing law, is changing some of the way government works.

I think too often issues can come up that affect LGBT people but they’re not acted on fast enough. I think there’s a good case with the Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) that people in the community want us to act on. It was raised in the House of Commons last week, and I’m going to make sure that whether it’s NICE or the Department of Health, let’s get through the gears a bit faster and see if we can get this fixed.

I want to make sure that you can feel your government is acting fast on things that concern you.

But we all know that changing laws and changing practise isn’t enough. What really needs to change is culture.

I think laws and practises help change culture, but to change culture you need to change the way people think, you need to change the way government works, and you need to change the way institutions work.

That’s why I think it’s right that there’s such a high emphasis now on dealing with homophobic bullying and transphobic bullying and all the problems that go on at schools and colleges.

We’ve put money into that, but I think we need to keep working with all of you to make sure we really deliver on that agenda.

But if there was one thing I wanted to pull out, and say the government can do more and do better over this Parliament – alongside change law, change practise, change culture, it would be the ambitious change the world. We may feel that this is a good country to be gay or to be bi or to be transgender, but in the rest of the world, many countries are a totally miserable place to be LGBT.

Just take one fact: the Commonwealth that we’re proud to be a member of and HM The Queen is the head of.

Of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth, 40 still have legislation that in some way disadvantages people that are gay.

We are hosting the Commonwealth Conference here in London in 2018 and I think there’s a good opportunity between now and then to encourage countries to take the steps that we have taken here.

The promise I can give you tonight is not that we’re going to solve the problem overnight: many countries have deeply-held legislative positions and strong prejudices. But I think what we can do is make sure that whether it’s the Foreign Office, DfID, or the Prime Minister… we put this issue higher up the agenda.

There was a very good All-Party Parliamentary Group report making exactly this point: we need to make sure all of government is working together properly as we talk to our friends and our neighbours around the world, and ask them to do more to achieve the rights and equality and respect and dignity that people have in this country, and increasingly across Europe.

I want to thank you for all the work that you do, because in many ways politicians are a bit like computers: you don’t give us the information, we can’t act. Rubbish in, rubbish out.

We need quality information and quality facts, and I think we’ve showed in the Coalition government over the last five years and I hope in this majority government too that we take these issues seriously.

We want to solve the problems, whether it’s legislation, whether it’s practise, whether it’s culture, or whether it’s talking around the world.