The British government wants to promote LGBTI inclusion around the world and has committed £12 million (US$16 million) over the next three years to do so.
Baroness Williams of Trafford made the announcement at the country’s first National LGBT Conference. The Women and Equalities office hosted the conference attended by about 300 delegates.
Baroness Williams is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Equalities) and Minister of State for Countering Extremism.
‘It’s wonderful… I feel like we’ve really been making strides,’ Baroness Williams told Gay Star News.
‘In many ways we’re leading the world in equalities, I feel really proud in the advances of equalities.’
The UK slipped to fourth place on this year’s ILGA Rainbow Index. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association Rainbow Europe Map and Index measures all European countries on LGBTI rights. The UK used to have the top spot in 2015. But it steadily dropped in rankings until hitting fourth place last year out of 49 European countries.
A clear call from @OllieEntwistle: Our school system and the culture of #LGBT prejudice and abuse/bullying has remained stubbornly damaging despite more general shifts in societal attitudes towards our community and MUST be changed. #LGBTnatcon19
— Greg Owen (@Greg0wen) March 18, 2019
The £12 million is part of an UK AID initiative to improve LGBTI Rights.
Asked if the LGBTI focused aid was British reparations for introducing laws criminalizing same-sex relations throughout its former and current colonies, Baroness Williams said: ‘The motivation behind international focus is about influencing, we lead the world on equality, it’s important that we show leadership in this area… not just about tolerance, but acceptance of different types of lives that people want to lead.’
Momentum for LGBTI rights
Monday’s conference brought together stakeholders from civil society, public service and media to discuss how to improve LGBTI people’s lives through access to services and policy changes.
It followed the announcement of the UK’S first LGBT Health Advisory Panel headed by Dr Michael Brady. The panel was created out of the LGBT Action Plan following a survey of 108,000 LGBT people.
Commenting on how effective the panel could be, Baroness Williams made assurances parliament would take its advice.
‘If you see the people who are on the panel, they will be quite forthcoming in their recommendations,’ she said.
‘Generally we don’t set up advisory panels if we don’t want to hear what they’ve got to say. So I think as a government we’ve got to take all the recommendations and we will be as positive as we can in responding to them.’
Brady hosted a small forum where he answered direct questions about his role and listened to feedback about what his priorities should be.
‘It feels like a good time to take this on, it feels like there’s momentum for this,’ Brady said.
The Women and Equalities office will also host the first of its kind global summit on LGBTI issues. Heads of state and other influential people will be invited to attend to share ideas on how to end LGBTI discrimination.
While the survey did not ask anything specific about international issues, many survey respondents chose to comment about Britain’s global responsibilities in the open free-text response.
‘I feel in terms of reach and engagement it’s been fantastic,’ Baroness Williams said of the survey.
Gender Recognition Act
Baroness Williams also updated delegates on the department’s review of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).
— Liam Beattie (@Liam_Beattie) March 18, 2019
Last year, the government asked for submissions regarding the GRA. The process put the trans community at the center of a toxic national debate about their rights. The government received more about 100,000 submissions, with Baroness Williams saying it will hand down its response later this year.
‘We have seen fierce debate on this issue in recent months. And it’s right that the government has listened to every one of those views,’ she said.
She assured delegates the government was ‘committed’ to updating the GRA despite rumors saying otherwise.
‘We are far from slowing down, we are deep in the process. There is no rolling back on the Gender Recognition Act, we are very committed to it,’ she said.
‘I don’t know where these Chinese whispers came from, but we remain committed as ever to it.’