Phyll Opoku-Gyimah calls on UK government to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights across the world

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah

As countries across the world roll-back LGBTQ+ rights, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, executive director of queer nonprofit organisation Kaleidoscope Trust, is calling on the UK government to do more for people under threat globally.

“Over the next couple of weeks, my colleagues and I from Kaleidoscope Trust will be at both Conservative and Labour party conferences, speaking to MPs and decision-makers from across the political spectrum.

We’re sharing with them our new Policy Manifesto, which sets our clear priorities for the next UK Government in relation to global LGBTI+ rights.

With so much going on internationally, from the aftermath of a global pandemic to natural disasters, the war in Ukraine and increasing political instability in many countries, I understand that it would be easy for politicians to overlook LGBTI+ rights.

But that would be dangerous.

Whilst the last few decades have seen striking progress on LGBTI+ rights, over the last couple of years we have seen disturbing signs that this progress has slowed and that, in some countries at least, we may actually be regressing.

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Earlier this year the President of Uganda signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Act which further criminalises consensual same-sex activity as well as anyone campaigning for LGBTI+ rights or even speaking positively about LGBTI+ people. Already we’ve seen a young man charged with so-called ‘aggravated homosexuality’, which potentially carries the death penalty.

Disturbingly, similar laws are now being proposed in other countries, including Ghana, Kenya and Iraq.

DeLovie Kwagala pictured holding a sign that says "Uganda Kill the bill not the gays equality!".
DeLovie Kwagala pictured holding a sign that says “Uganda kill the bill not the gays equality!” (Getty)

Across much of Africa, we’re seeing an uptick of violence, misinformation and intimidation against LGBTI+ people.

Street protests, hate speech and attacks against community members are widely reported, even in countries which were formerly seen as progressive on LGBTI+ rights, such as Namibia and Botswana.

Global power-players such as China and Russia are openly cracking down on LGBTI+ rights, with the former closing long-established LGBT+ civil society organisations and the latter passing new laws to ban gender-affirming care.

Yet alongside this depressing reality we also see hope and opportunity.

In 2022 alone, four countries decriminalised consensual sex between people of the same gender. And more countries than ever before are vocal in their support for the human rights of LGBTI+ people.

The UK Government was one of the first in the world to publicly state that upholding the human rights of LGBTI+ people and decriminalising same-sex relationships would be central tenet of its foreign policy.

As I speak with LGBTI+ rights activists across the world, they tell me how much it’s meant to them to know that people in the UK are supporting their fight, both through the public statements and funding commitments of the UK Government and its foreign missions, and through the support they get from Kaleidoscope Trust.

Since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights seventy-five years ago, the UK has seen itself as a leader on global human rights.

If we as a country want to continue this proud tradition, the UK needs to step up and play a full part of this growing global coalition on LGBTI+ rights, not just to right the past wrongs of colonialism (in around half of the countries which currently criminalise same-sex relationships these laws were first passed under British colonial rule) but also to build on its more recent leadership on these issues.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading ‘Save Trans People in Russia’ as transgender people and their supporters march through central London during the fifth Trans Pride protest (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

So, I am calling on the next UK Government, whichever party forms it, to build on those statements and promises.

Our comprehensive policy manifesto sets out five clear priorities for the UK Government in relation to global LGBTI+ rights:

  • Sustainable and Stable Funding
  • Global Britain: Multilateral Leadership on LGBTI+ Human Rights
  • Addressing Violence and Discrimination
  • Raising Global Standards through Action at Home
  • Making the Case for Economic Inclusion

We are asking every MP and prospective MP to sign up to implement these priorities. I hope you will join me in making it clear to our elected representatives that LGBTI+ rights, both at home and abroad, must be a priority.

In the last thirty years, 49 countries have decriminalised consensual sex between people of the same gender. Yet 66 countries continue to criminalise our relationships and in many other places LGBTI+ people live in fear, without protection from violence and discrimination.

They cannot afford to wait decades for change. The time to act is now.”

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