The ceremony was led by Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Parveen Yaqoob, with speeches by our Welfare Officer Poppy Lindsey and LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair Dr Ruvi Ziegler (see image below, three speakers from right to left). Ruvi’s speech is enclosed.
For 18 years, 17 May has been observed around the globe as the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It marks the date when, in 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Its key purpose is to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, and the public to the risks and challenges faced by LGBT+ people and by others who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms.
In many corners of the world, including countries in the Commonwealth with a colonial legacy, hostility towards our community is rampant. 70 countries, and nearly a third of the world’s population, still criminalise consensual adult same-sex male sexual acts, with 11 countries where the death penalty may be imposed.
Whereas many places have seen advancement of protection and rights, the trajectory is also by no means one directional. To give one contemporary illustration, in Uganda, a draconian ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’, which only two out of 389 MPs voted against, is awaiting President Museveni’s signature before coming into force.
The Bill imposes life-imprisonment sentences for gay sex, up to 14 years for “attempted” homosexuality, and 20 years in jail for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities”. There are some aggravated conditions such as being HIV positive which carry the death penalty. The bill’s proposers outline its four objectives:
- prohibit same-sex sexual relations
- strengthen Uganda’s capacity to deal with domestic and foreign threats to the heterosexual family
- safeguard traditional and cultural values
- protect youth/children against gay and lesbian practice
If this bill becomes law, it may make Uganda the worst place for LGBT+ persons globally and force many to flee their country. Unfortunately, if they arrive at our shores, the government’s new ‘illegal migration bill’ has in stock for them detention and removal to neighbouring Rwanda – not protection.
Indeed, the trajectory in this country regarding protection of LGBT plus people is rather worrying, too: six years after a consultation was published on reforming the GRA to improve the situation of trans people, a culture war is raging in which transphobia is commonplace.
The consequences, a significant rise in hate crimes against LGBT plus people generally, and trans persons in particular, could have been foreseen.
‘I am deeply concerned about increased bias-motivated incidents of harassment, threats, and violence against LGBT people, including a rampant surge in hate crimes in the UK”.
These are not my words, but those of Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the conclusion of his country visit earlier this month. He cautions that this could endanger very significant achievements, built over decades, to address violence and discrimination in the country’
So, the battle for recognition and protection is far from won.
But even as we recoil from abhorrent policies and practices, we must remain determined to make true MLK’s famous statement, that ‘the art of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’.
We thank all those who attended; we are grateful to be able to celebrate this day together, in solidarity.