As Minister for Women and Equalities, I am committed to ensuring equality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s vital that we work to improve the lives of LGBT people in this country and support any fellow member of the Commonwealth who wishes to work towards reforming laws that affect LGBT citizens. I am immensely proud that the UK is recognized as a world leader on LGBT rights. This week I attended the Commonwealth Summit where I was able to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to LGBT equality. I announced that the UK Government will fund a £5.6 million programme to advance LGBT and gender equality in the Commonwealth. This programme, “Towards a Fairer, more inclusive Commonwealth,” will support a number of organizations including the Kaleidoscope Trust, the Royal Commonwealth Society, Human Dignity Trust and Sisters for Change to support the reform of laws discriminating against women and LGBT people and the enactment of progressive equality legislation or policies. It also provides support and capacity building to civil society. We have one of the strongest legislative frameworks to prevent and tackle all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment. I am hugely proud that we have the highest number of parliamentarians in the world who openly identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. However, it’s important to acknowledge the journey we have been on in the UK and recognize that there is more for us to do. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister expressed her deep regret for this country’s legacy with regards to anti-LGBT legislation in the Commonwealth and she pledged the UK’s support for any Commonwealth member seeking to reform discriminatory laws.
On Wednesday, we published an International Best Practice Guide to Equality on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Funded by the Government Equalities Office and developed by OutRight Action International, the guide demonstrates that there is no one way to achieve equality. It highlights promising steps taken by countries in all regions of the world to protect and support LGBT people. Instead of focussing solely on decriminalization and legislation, it also shines a light on positive policy and practice that often set the groundwork for legal reform and improve lives of LGBT people. I hope that this guide demonstrates the diversity of approaches that countries around the world are taking and facilitates knowledge-sharing between Commonwealth countries and internationally. We must continue to work together across different countries, communities, ethnicities, faith and political affiliations to achieve a common goal; equality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.