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IDAHOTB: Celebrating May 17th with the launch of our LGBT+ & Allies Network

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia aka IDAHOTB was created in 2004 to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBT+ people internationally.

Rainbow Wall - International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia
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Jonny is a solicitor working with Richard Meeran in the International Department. He has assisted on a number of high profile corporate accountability cases, including litigation on behalf of former gold miners who contracted silicosis during their employment on Anglo American mines in South Africa
It is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal. The date of May 17th was symbolically chosen because it is the anniversary of the decision in 1990 by the World Health Organisation to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

LGBT rights groups around the world have had much to celebrate recently, with the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia, Austria, Germany and Malta in the past year. Just a few weeks ago, Costa Rica elected a new President that championed LGBT rights in what was a divisive election against a candidate with a strongly anti-same-sex marriage campaign.

However, at the same time, we have also witnessed a worrying rise in anti-LGBT discrimination and the erosion of LGBT rights in various parts of the world:
  • Egypt – in 2017, the Egyptian authorities stepped up their arrests of suspected gay and trans people, often using social media to ‘entrap’ them. They have also banned media statements in support of homosexuality.
  • Indonesia – legislators are proposing laws that criminalise same sex conduct and arrests for alleged LGBT associated behaviour and police raids on gay and trans venues have increased.
  • Russia’s crackdown on LGBT rights and its “gay propaganda” law banning the promotion of homosexuality are well documented. The law has led to a rise in LGBT hate crimes in the country. In Chechnya, authorities carried out an anti-gay “purge” in 2017, rounding up and imprisoning dozens of men suspected of being homosexual, with some being tortured and even killed.
  • Azerbaijan – in 2017, police arrested and tortured up to 100 men presumed to be gay and bisexual, along with transgender women, and extorted them for money and intelligence on the identities of other gay men.
  • Brazil – in 2017, 445 LGBT Brazilians died violent deaths as victims of homophobia, an increase of rose by 30% and an all-time high. In September, a Brazilian judge approved the use of gay conversion therapy by psychologists. 
  • Earlier this year, Bermuda repealed same-sex marriage only a year after legalising it.
  • In the USA, the Trump administration has attempted to reverse the Obama-era policy allowing transgender people to serve in the military, and has nominated a number of anti-LGBT judges who are likely to rule on anti-discrimination protections for LGBT workers and transgender access to bathrooms.

Moreover, same-sex relations are still criminalised in 72 countries, and in Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, homosexual acts are still punishable by death.

It is precisely because LGBT+ individuals in these countries cannot easily assert their rights, celebrate their diversity and draw attention to the discrimination that they face every day that we must highlight these issues and express our solidarity with them on May 17th

In the UK, we have a lot to be proud of and the recent announcement that the House of Commons will be debating LGBT rights nationally and internationally on May 17th is encouraging.  However, there is still more that we can do. Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain Trans Report for 2017 found one in eight trans employees has been physically attacked by a colleague or customer in the last year and half of trans people have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination. Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain work report for 2017 found that one in five LGBT staff has been the target of negative comments from a work colleague in the past year, while more than a third of LGBT workers have hidden or disguised their sexuality or gender identity at work for fear of discrimination. 

The importance of this day is therefore not lost on us, and that is why Leigh Day has chosen May 17th to launch its LGBT+ & Allies Network, which will work to champion LGBT+ rights within the firm and provide a platform for highlighting LGBT+ issues through our external networks.

We are also delighted to have Lord Michael Cashman (co-founder and founding Chair of Stonewall, former Member of European Parliament and previous Chair of the Labour Party National Executive Committee) as a guest speaker at our launch.

Leigh Day has a proud history of championing human rights and equality, and giving a legal voice to marginalised individuals and communities both in the UK and abroad, and we have represented a number of LGBT+ individuals in claims involving discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a firm, through our new LGBT+ & Allies Network, we look forward to engaging with the community in promoting LGBT+ rights in the legal sector and more widely in the UK.
 
Jonny Buckley is a solicitor in the international department and a founding member of Leigh Day’s LGBT+ & Allies network.

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