Members of Parliament from 25 countries have today united to press for action to protect LGBT+ people from violence and discrimination, arguing that human rights are universal and should be upheld in every nation. Almost 100 elected representatives have mobilised to launch the Global Equality Caucus, a new international network of parliamentarians aiming to tackle discrimination against LGBT+ people.
The Caucus launches today at the United Nations in New York, to be addressed by elected representatives from every region of the world. The event, which will coincide with the World Pride/Stonewall50 celebrations, will be attended by business representatives, NGOs and government officials.
The MPs say that, while great progress has been made in many countries to secure equality, LGBT+ people still face violence and discrimination in every region of the globe. Homosexuality is illegal in almost 70 countries, 11 of which retain the death penalty as punishment. In a declaration to be signed at the UN meeting, the politicians say that “acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity are wrong and must end.”
The Caucus will support decriminalisation and the end of violence against LGBT+ people, promote equal rights and non-discrimination, and ensure that LGBT+ people have equal access to healthcare, including HIV treatment and support for trans people. It also wants to ensure that data is collected so that governments can be held accountable for how LGBT+ people are treated, and support funding for NGOs which are working for LGBT+ people.
The Caucus says that it will hold governments to account and try to improve equality laws, working in partnership with businesses and NGOs. It also aims to advocate for LGBT+ issues in global forums. The Global Equality Caucus aims to replicate the success of the Global TB Caucus, which became the first international parliamentary network dedicated to a single issue when it was set up in 2014. The TB Caucus now has over 2,500 members in 150 countries and is widely credited for successfully driving tuberculosis up the global political agenda.
The Global Equality Caucus, which is open to legislators across the world regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, will support its members through research briefings, up-to-date information, and regular meetings.
Following its launch at the UN, the Caucus aims to hold regional events over the course of the next twelve months, culminating in a global parliamentary conference in London next year to coincide with a meeting of the Equal Rights Coalition, to be hosted by the UK Government.
Nick Herbert MP (UK), Chair of the Global Equality Caucus, said: “In too many places around the world LGBT+ people face discrimination and live in fear. We need to stand up for them, and politicians are in a unique position to drive change. We pass laws, vote funds and influence leaders. We have a platform to speak for those whose voice cannot be heard. The Global Equality Caucus will make the case for change, united by a belief in equality for all.”
Senator Aziza Lake (Antigua and Barbuda) said: “The Global Equality Caucus is important because it can assist in tackling the discrimination against LGBT+ discrimination. I believe in equal rights for all under the law, particularly for consenting adults, and I hope an organization like the Global Equality Caucus will help in mobilising action in that regard.”
Alex Greenwich MP (New South Wales Parliament, Australia and co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality) said: “International LGBT and ally politicians were critical to Australia achieving marriage equality.Across the world we have so much more work to do together, and I look forward to working with the Global Equality Caucus to progress fairness and equality wherever we can”.
Representative Robeyoncé Lima (Brazil) said: “It will be wonderful to build an international network of political representatives which will tackle discrimination against LGBT+ people, especially given the current political context in Brazil. We are building lots of new political initiatives and look forward to exchanging experiences with other politicians."
Randy Boissannault MP (Canada) said: “As individual parliamentarians we aim to make a difference in our hometowns, our cities, and our countries. Collectively, we can usher in a wave of progress for LGBTQ people around the world. The Global Equality Caucus will provide a unique forum and serve as a critical resource for colleagues united by one common goal: eliminating discrimination in our countries.”
Congresswoman Jacqueline Montero (Dominican Republic) said: “I support The Caucus’s vision, mission and goals as my population struggles to win LGBT+ rights. By joining forces we are stronger, and such representation of LGBT+ causes on the world stage shows we are valid and our rights are universal.”
Congresswoman Diane Rodriguez (Ecuador) said: “The Equality Caucus is an important opportunity for countries like Ecuador, to provide opportunities for political and social advances in LGBT+ rights. The Caucus will be a force for good and work to repeal discriminatory laws, eliminate violence motivated by hatred, improve the health and well-being of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and serve as a model to follow.”
Terry Reintke MEP (Germany, European Parliament) said: “The struggle for LGBTI rights and equality is a global one. Let's join forces to make it a reality.”
Hon. Esther Passaris (Kenya) said: “To discriminate and marginalize citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity is to undermine their basic human rights. Love between two consenting adults should not be criminalized.”
Louisa Wall MP (New Zealand) said: “As a passionate human rights practitioner, and a proud indigenous takatapui lesbian cis woman, I am committed to developing and supporting initiatives that uphold principles of equality and non-discrimination and protect the rights of our most vulnerable. LGBTIQ+ human beings and citizens globally have a right to exist as we are. That is why the Global Equality Caucus is so very important. To help create a dedicated and unified global Parliamentarian voice committed to the recognition and advancement of LGBTIQ+ identities globally.”
Congressman Alberto de Belaunde (Peru) said: “This Caucus is going to be historic. This is one of the most important human rights causes of our political generation, and this is the opportunity to unite and push for harder changes that improve the lives of millions of citizens worldwide.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros (Philippines) said: “I am in full support of the Global Equality Caucus that aims to strengthen our campaign for equality, especially for the LGBTQI+ community. In the Philippines, we are pushing for the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill/SOGIE Equality Bill which seeks to protect persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). As parliamentarians, we can learn alot from each other’s experiences and those of our partner advocates. While homosexuality is a crime in almost 70 countries and merits the death penalty in 11, our work is cut out for us. In the fight for equality, one important tool is global solidarity.”
Rep Mark Takano (US Congress) said: “I am very excited by the launch of the Global Equality Caucus. By bringing together openly LGBT legislators and allies from around the world, the Caucus will give us a chance to learn from each other’s successes and better understand the challenges that exist in different nations. The Global Equality Caucus will be a network that will advance the rights of people throughout the world. At a time when the cause of LGBT equality seems to be gaining ground in many places, but falling behind in as many others, the need for this Caucus could not be greater.”
Assemblywoman Tamara Adrian (Venezuela) said:“ An LGBTI Caucus is a very important initiative, particularly in a moment in which fundamentalists are trying not only to impede advancement with regard to LGBTI rights but also even to recede the current advancements in many countries. A coalition of legislators is a very important tool to promote global actions in favour of the recognition of equal rights and a barrier to the pretensions of the fundamentalists to annul the current advancements.”