In our third blog for LGBT History Month, Kris looks at LGBT equality from an international perspective and why Proud has chosen “Organising for International LGBT Equality” as the theme for this year’s LGBT History Month.
Today more than 70 countries around the world criminalise LGBT citizens and visitors on the grounds of their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity. Of those countries, HALF are part of the current Commonwealth of Nations, formerly the British Commonwealth.
Indeed most of these LGBT phobic laws can be traced back to the former British Empire when anti LGBT and sodomy legislation in the UK was exported to what were then British colonies. And while the UK has progressed in terms of LGBT equality since, the majority of the Commonwealth maintain these discriminatory practices with punishments ranging from imprisonment and hard labour to, in some cases, the death penalty.
Why should it matter to me?
Some might think that it’s none of our business, but the fact is international issues, such as LGBT equality, should be of importance to PCS as a union and to our members.
For example, many of our members in different departments may be required to regularly travel overseas as part of their duties, potentially placing LGBT members in harm’s way if they are posted to a country which criminalises who they are. There is also an additional risk for staff who may not be out in their workplace in these circumstances.
Proud, and PCS as a whole, believes that any form of discrimination or inequality based on status or personal characteristic, including sexuality, gender identity and gender reassignment, is unacceptable. This is reflected in our charter for equality. That is why our organising and campaigning puts equality at the heart of everything we do, to ensure that ALL of our members are protected and supported as we fight for the society PCS and our members believe in.
However, when it comes to organising for international LGBT equality we must recognise the successes, as well as learn from the mistakes, of the past.
Where success has been achieved it has been down to the tremendous efforts of those who have local knowledge, who know the political and social landscape in which they have to operate, often at great risk to themselves and their family and friends.
Rather than trying to relive the days of the British Empire and simply declaring such laws null and void, instead we must offer our support to those working on the ground. Those who every day put their heads above the parapet to try and educate and organise for a better society where they are.
Our role should be to help amplify their voice, not use our own to lecture and denigrate, as all this will achieve is to force those who hold such prejudiced views to double down in their resolve to oppose the advancement of equality.
How to get involved
Amnesty International, to which PCS is affiliated, works in various countries around the world on a wide range of issues, including equality, highlighting and working with local activists and campaigns that are taking place.
If you want to help organise for international equality then it can be something as simple as sharing a story on social media, extending the reach of what is happening across the globe ever further and helping educate others in human rights abuses that continue to take place globally.
Help us spread the message of International LGBT equality this LGBT History Month. Make use of the resources created by Proud and PCS Equality to organise events in your workplace and encourage others in your workplace to join Proud, and PCS if they’re not already a member.
Proud is open to all PCS members, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Sign up online.