The Emerald View: The All Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT Rights Initial Report

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global LGBT Rights launched its first major report, titled ‘The UK’s Response to International Breaches of LGBT Rights’, on 13th April 2016. The group was set up last year by MPs and peers across the political spectrum and is the first of its kind in the UK parliament.

The report makes a series of recommendations on how the UK government, businesses and NGOs can contribute to improving the lives of gay people globally, advancing gay equality on a worldwide scale, and makes extremely interesting, but often difficult reading.

Emerald Life welcomes the report and applauds the cross-party group for looking internally at the UK, first and foremost, in its critical analysis of how we respond to international breaches of LGBT rights.

Emerald’s view is that business leaders hold the keys to unlocking the gates of change for LGBT rights globally, and further, they have a responsibility to their employees and customers alike to fight for equality.

The report lists multiple violations to LGBT rights around the world in a methodical manner and summarises them in key areas. Whilst a lot of the examples will be known to many, it is particularly difficult to comprehend the sheer scale of the work ahead in ultimately creating equality for all LGBT people in all parts of the world.

Some of the unfortunate statistics contained in chapter 1 of the report, ‘The Scale, Character and Impact of Breaches of LGBT Rights Around the World’ reveal: 

  • 40% of the world’s population (2.9 billion) live in jurisdictions which criminalise same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults
  • 400 million people live under laws which punish same-sex sexual activity with the death penalty
  • Only 55 countries allow trans people to change their gender legally on official documents
  • There is a correlation between the criminalisation of same-sex sexual activity and the health of a state’s democracy
  • The majority of jurisdictions that criminalise same-sex sexual activity do so on the basis of legislation inherited from Britain during their colonial histories 

As part of the report’s recommendations, the Private Sector is singled out by the APPG as having a key role to play in tackling international breaches of LGBT rights. The APPG recommends:

  • The private sector should establish supportive workplace policies that create a culture of tolerance and provide a safe environment for LGBT employees
  • The private sector should support local LGBT civil society organisations through corporate giving programmes and space-sharing relationships to provide a safe environment for them in non-friendly locations
  • Where appropriate, the private sector should take a visible stance in support of the rights of LGBT people, in conjunction with existing civil society strategies and priorities 

This recommendation, along with chapter two in the APPG’s report, ‘The Economic Cost of Discrimination’, are of most relevance in creating a business-based argument for equality. Chapter two sets out the ‘growing evidence’ of the relationship between discrimination and the state of a nation’s economy and sub-categorises this into 3 further areas: the costs to the individual, the costs to business and the costs to the whole economy.

The report found that, “LGBT individuals face specific disadvantages with respect to all aspects of poverty including: ascribed and legal inferiority, lack of political clout, lack of information, education deficiencies, barriers to public institutions, barriers to social protection measures, spatial marginalisation, greater physical insecurities and material poverties.”

In comparison to the many negative statistics and facts contained in the report, where business is concerned the APPG said, “there is increasing evidence of a positive relationship between diverse and tolerant workplaces and successful business performance,” and cited the example that, “of the 20 largest companies in the United States, 14 score 100 per cent in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), which rates workplaces on based on LGBT equality.”

And in a larger sense, a whole nation’s economy is described as suffering ‘adversely’ if the state also discriminates legislatively and socially towards its LGBT population, stating that, “there is a clear correlation between successful economies and the recognition of the rights of LGBT people.”

The report includes this graphical interpretation of the link between LGBT rights and GDP per capita:

LGBT Tolerance graph

This is where Emerald finds the most tangible proof that business leaders hold the keys to opening the gates of change. Our view is that by supporting the on-the-ground fight for equality and working in unison with in-situ civil groups at a local and national level, international businesses leaders can provide true influence, and ultimately bring about change.  

Multi-national corporations that employ talent across the world in many cases are commended for providing excellent workplaces for a diverse workforce. Conversely, given the geographic scale of inequality globally, multi-nationals will do business in regions of the world where there is not LGBT equality. Emerald applauds those organisations who are providing safe spaces and applying resources to advance LGBT rights in those areas. We do, though, call on others who are not acting to protect their employees and customers by contributing to the fight for equality, in some regions, and implore them to work with expert organisations to do so. Indeed, as suggested by Ruth Hunt during her remarks at the launch of the APPG report, “it would just take a well-placed word in the ears of political leaders”, by business leaders in these countries to apply significant pressure, given the economic influence they hold in those respective countries.

How does Emerald Life contribute to the global fight for LGBT equality?

We have a strategic commitment to supporting LGBT community initiatives and have formed partnerships with organisations who are either on the ground in many of the regions mentioned in the APPG report or who are directly supporting activists in those countries by providing both money and resources.

Our partner the Human Dignity Trust right now has experts providing legal assistance to those facing legislative discrimination because of their sexuality, or who are leading the fight for legal reform in many of the countries listed in the report. Stonewall, another partner, provides training and resources to activists as they continue to fight against oppression and inequality in their own countries, often by their own governments.

Emerald Life strongly supports the APPG in its work. We look forward to seeing how this report is received as well as promoting awareness and action on the findings contained within it.

As Lord Cashman, vice chair of the APPG said, “This is only the first step. We must be judged by what we do with the evidence and by how we achieve real change.” 

We look forward to further activity from the APPG LGBT and will contribute where possible on its next report. 

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