“The ‘Safe to be Me’ conference organised by the UK Government was to be an important space to discuss and advance human rights for persons of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics globally. However, it could not have gone ahead under the current circumstances with the UK Government truncating the plan to ban ‘conversion therapy’,” said Julia Ehrt, Executive Director at ILGA World. “The UK Government could have chosen to ban ‘conversion therapy’ on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity as it promised, and hold its global event to support the advancement of human rights for LGBTI people. Instead, it chose to do neither”.
More than 100 LGBTI and civil society organisations had withdrawn their support to the first LGBT+ conference organised by the UK government after the Prime Minister’s Office failed to deliver on its promises to protect trans and gender-diverse people from ‘conversion therapy’.
“We applaud our member organisations and LGBTI groups at large in the United Kingdom for their collective and much-needed demonstration of solidarity with trans and gender-diverse people”, Ehrt continues. “Their withdrawal of support to the event came after months of attempts to make the conference work, until it became clear it was no longer possible. Their actions are a testament to the unity within our LGBTI communities, and speak so much louder than those voices that would rather have us divided".
As the global federation representing over 1,700 LGBTI organisations from across the world, ILGA World has been particularly concerned to see the UK government backtracking on its promises to protect trans and gender-diverse people from ‘conversion therapy’ just before its first global conference on LGBTI human rights.
“The UK Government has jeopardized its own conference by failing to take trans issues seriously, and to deliver adequate protections for intersex people too,” said Gurchaten Sandhu, Director of Programmes at ILGA World. “But national negative developments make waves globally: now that the conference is cancelled, we now must find other opportunities to come together to address how we improve the human rights situation of LGBTI people worldwide. To be considered as a global leader of human rights, the UK Government must live up to a higher standard and deliver on its commitments.”
The United Kingdom has often committed to safeguarding the rights of LGBTI people on the international stage: during a dialogue on ‘conversion therapies’ with the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in 2020, for example, it stated that “efforts to end the barbaric practice of ‘conversion therapy’ should be a priority for all States” and that “the UK Government regards all of these practices as abusive and harmful”.
“While we welcome the support of the UK in advancing this discussion internationally, we call on the Government to live up to its commitments made at the United Nations and other fora,” concludes Ehrt.