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Home  »   LGBT+   »   United Nations expert advises the UK to keep calm and respect diversity

United Nations expert advises the UK to keep calm and respect diversity

The United Nations Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (IE SOGI), Victor Madrigal-Borloz, paid a 10-day visit to the UK in April and May 2023.

Thu 1st June 2023 The PDA

Human rights protections and political discourse

In Victor Madrigal-Borloz’s preliminary statement, the IE criticised the Bill of Rights Bill, originally tabled in the UK Parliament in June 2022 to repeal and replace the Human Rights Act 1998, because it could negatively affect existing human rights protections.

Victor highlighted discrepancies between the UK government’s and devolved administrations’ approaches to human rights law and policy, using the Gender Recognition Reform Bill as an illustration. The Scottish Parliament passed this bill in December 2022, but in January 2023 the UK government blocked it from receiving Royal Assent and becoming law.

Additionally, the IE was ‘particularly alarmed’ by the proposal to define ‘sex’ as ‘biological sex’ under the Equality Act as doing so could restrict the rights of trans people since obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate would no longer change a person’s sex in discrimination law.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz raised concern over ‘toxic’ discourse propagated by politicians, the media, and social commentators, particularly stereotypical representations of LGBT+ people as dangerous and often using homophobic and transphobic rhetoric. Further, there have been significant increases in hate crimes targeting LGBT + people over the last 18 months.

Good practice in policymaking and data collection

The IE identified numerous good practices and commendable efforts by public authorities in the drafting of LGBT+ human rights strategies and cited the Welsh government’s LGBT+ Action Plan, published in February 2023, as an example. Victor noted that best practice seems to emerge from partnership approaches.

The visit confirmed the UK’s position as a global leader when it comes to statistics collection, in particular by means of regular census research. The planning of inclusive services that meet and provide for the needs of all people without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity can be improved by using the 2021 Census data on LGBT+ populations in England and Wales.  The IE recommended the collection and evaluation of intersectional data, including based on race in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Healthcare access

One of the main areas of protection needs and gaps was found to be in healthcare, particularly in relation to mental and sexual health, including HIV prevention and protection. Currently, there are four-year waiting lists for gender identity services, and this has negative consequences for transgender people’s mental health.

In comparison to their peers, older people in the UK experience worse access to public healthcare services and encounter discrimination from healthcare professionals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. This results in frequently delayed treatment and inadequate screening, which ultimately leads to worse health outcomes. Access to mental health services is another problem for older LGBT+ individuals, and health issues are worsened for older LGBT+ people of colour.

Summary

Victor Madrigal-Borloz said, “stands in awe of the courage, resilience, resourcefulness and joy that he witnessed in his exchanges with lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons, LGBT-led and LGBT-serving organisations, all of whom carry out their lives and their work in the United Kingdom under the extreme pressure and hostility of a public debate which, today, questions rights that are directly connected with their dignity and, in some cases, their very existence.”

He concluded by saying, “the evidence shows that there is nothing to fear in the existence of LGBT persons, and much to celebrate in the diversity that they bring to our common humanity.”

By Jayne Love, PDA Organiser and Lead on Equalities

Get involved

  • Take action to protect the trans community – email your MP using Stonewall’s tool.
  • Join the PDA LGBT+ network here.
  • Follow the PDA LGBT+ Network on social media using the hashtag #PDAlgbt
  • Contact the PDA LGBT+ Network committee know by emailing lgbt@the-pda.org

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