Globally renowned activists came to London to discuss LGBTI rights today (18 January).
Dozens witnessed the debate held at the Gay Star Beach Party and LGBTI Travel Show in Heaven club.
The hot topics were on the subject of international aid, the correlation between gay rights in the West and homophobia in other countries, and the evangelism of the past.
Speaking at the Gay Star Beach Party, the panelists were:
GayAsylumUK head Omar Kuddus,
Ugandan activist and director of African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group Edwin Sesange,
All Out director Marie Campbell
Kaleidoscope assistant director Alistair Stewart
Writer, journalist and trans campaigner Jane Fae
Kuddus began by saying LGBTI activism has become dominated by ‘fashion’, easily illustrating the laws passing in Russia, Uganda and India.
He warned other African countries will face a similar fate, such as Ghana.
‘Just because a petition has been signed doesn’t necessarily help the LGBTIs on the ground,’ he said.
Campbell said, while it is a challenge to get the general public understanding issues in other countries, ‘fashions’ can be helpful.
After all, once people are open to supporting LGBTI rights in one country then they will begin to fight for rights in the 70+ countries where it is illegal to be gay.
Sesange said the international community was doing more than harm, but we still need to do more.
‘These anti-gay laws that are popular in Uganda, India, Russia. They don’t prosecute because you’re gay, but because you’re viewed as someone in favor of LGBTI rights.
‘If they see you campaigning, they’re going to put you in prison. You have to be careful of your position.
He added: ‘The world is going through change. We have had more movements in recent years. The women’s movement, the black movement.
‘What we have to understand is, these people will change. They have to go through a process of change. They are going to resist, but they will change.’
Fae looked to the homophobia of Russia, and saying while there was a huge call for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics and vodka – local activists didn’t want that.
‘The view Putin is taking, is that you may have these values in the West but we have different values. Don’t impose your values on us,’ she said.
‘[Putin could put himself forward] as the leader of the alternative world, the man who goes against the gay rights of the West. It’s a very seductive position to take.’
Stewart said while British government has not intervened in other countries on LGBTI rights in the ‘best way’, it was better now.
‘Conversation is incredibly important,’ he said. ‘Activists are on the frontline of these battles. If we’re closely involved, it improves our advocacy.
‘There is room for international activism, but that activism needs to be in constant consultation with activists on the ground. They have the most to lose, and they have the best knowledge.’
When the panelists took questions from the floor, they were asked about evangelism.
The head of African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group said the Church of England and other religions need to ‘get back to basics’ and spread ‘love’ instead of hate.
On the idea of a ‘backlash’, they were asked if countries were reacting to the West passing gay rights laws by passing their own homophobic legislation.
Campbell said: ‘My hopeful take on it, is that when good things are happening progress is being made.
‘Those who are resisting fight it even more… But it still shows we are moving forward.’
There will be a second debate tomorrow (19 January) on the ethics of LGBTI travel, where the panelists will be veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Nigerian activist Bisi Alimi, LGBT schools advisor Elly Barnes, human rights researcher Paul Dillane and writer, journalist, editor and DJ Stewart Who.