The survey of LGBT individuals in Britain announced by Theresa May last summer has now been completed and the results will be published together with an LGBT Action Plan in the summer. The survey is the largest ever undertaken and sheds light on the LGBT world in the UK. Over 100,000 people responded to the survey with their stories, perceptions of their place in society and the difficulties they face.
The survey highlighted the fact that despite discrimination legislation that the LGBT community is frequently targeted in a variety of ways. Theresa May wrote an open letter to Gay Times pledging the government’s support and indicating that the LGBT Action Plan hopes to bring wide-ranging changes. The terms of the Action Plan are not known but it is expected to outline ways to improve health care, personal safety and education. Theresa May further stated that her government wished to make Britain a country where “no one feels the need to hide who they are or who they love”.
The LGBT Action Plan aims to set tangible steps to address the injustices that many of the LGBT community have endured and improve the lives of people within the community. The Prime Minister touched on the fact that transgender individuals suffer a considerable amount of prejudice and frequently suffer indignities that other sections of society, even within the LGBT community, do not experience. She further commented that transgender people deserved respect and understanding. The government has engaged experts to advise on the particular issues relating to gender recognition and there will be a public consultation on how the government can reform the system and processes to improve the way this sensitive issue is handled. Mrs. May patted her government’s collective back because the UK is considered to be a world leading light in advancing LGBT rights, however, when considering the fact that in some Commonwealth countries is it still illegal to be gay, the bar is quite low.
However, as the Prime Minister pointed out with deep regret at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting last month, that compared to times past when homosexuality was illegal and punishable by prison things have slowly improved. As 37 countries in the Commonwealth still punish gay people with prison, that law arises from Britain when they were part of the Empire; there is still a lot to do. Mrs. May stated that “those laws were wrong then and they are wrong now”, she further stated her deep regret that there remains a legacy of discrimination, violence and even death due to the blinkered thinking from the past. The government is committed to supporting any Commonwealth member that wishes to reform such outdated legislation that effectively gives permission to discriminate against gay people with impunity.
It should be recognised that, so far, the present government is one of the first to take an in-depth look at the lives lived within the LGBT community and acknowledge that, despite successive legislation to outlaw discrimination in all its forms, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done to create the desired level playing field for all.
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