June is Pride Month. A yearly opportunity to freely express and celebrate the strength and diversity of the whole LGBT+ community.
However, Pride isn’t just about the rainbow flags, live music performances and a celebration of rights and freedoms we enjoy at home in the UK. It is a reminder of the need for constant vigilance in the face of oppression around the world to keep the torch of liberty burning bright; and of the leading role Britain must play in the promotion of LGBT+ rights globally.
June is not Pride Month by coincidence. It commemorates the Stonewall Riots of 1969, a turning point in LGBT+ history. Members of the community pushed back against the state for infringing on their freedoms of expression and association, through regular police raids of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York.
While in Britain today the situation would be unrecognisable to those who lived in fear and desperation in the 1960s – positive relationship education in schools, anti-discrimination legislation, equal marriage and adoption for same-sex couples, and the possibility to change your legal gender – such freedoms are sadly not the case in many parts of the world. Indeed, in 68 countries around the world homosexuality is still criminalised and in too many places repression against LGBT+ people seems to have worsened in recent years.
Last May, in Iran, 20-year old Alireza Fazeli Monfared was allegedly beheaded by his half-brother and cousins after they discovered he was gay. Iran continues to have one of the most homophobic regimes in the world, where homosexuality can be punishable by death. It is thought that the discovery of Fazeli Monfared’s military exemption card – for which gay and trans men can apply to be exempted from military service – led his family to conduct what local LGBT+ rights group 6Rang are calling an ‘honour killing’.
Alireza’s tragic story should serve as a reminder to us all this Pride Month – we cannot and should not rest until every LGBT+ person around the world has the freedom to be themself. Britain must continue to play a leading role on the international stage to achieve LGBT+ equality for all.
This Conservative government has set advancing LGBT+ rights internationally as a priority and our role and influences should not be underestimated. Next June, the UK will host the first ever Global LGBT Conference. Chaired by Lord Herbert – who was recently appointed the UK’s Special Envoy on LGBT Rights – the conference will provide a global platform for the UK, as co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, to call for the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies against LGBT+ people and legal protection from discrimination.
The Stonewall Riots took place 52 years ago, yet around the world, many LGBT+ people still live in fear, with the ultimate threat of death simply for being themselves or loving who they choose to love.
This Pride Month the UK is at the centre of the world stage as we host the G7 Summit in Cornwall, taking a leading role in championing our shared values as we recover from the global pandemic. In doing so, we can look proudly ahead to a year of golden opportunity, by making the most of our world-leading diplomatic networks, to reach out an arm of friendship around the world and encourage all States to attend our Global LGBT Conference, and spread the torch of liberty together.
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This piece was written for 1821.