Campaigning for LGBT+ equality
As it’s Pride month, we wanted to celebrate some of the projects and campaigns from around the world led by lawyers to further LGBT+ rights.
There are still 71 jurisdictions in the world that criminalise sex between same-sex, consenting adults. All of them criminalise men and 43 criminalise women. 11 of these can and do impose the death penalty for same-sex intimacy (figures from Human Dignity Trust). There are only 29 countries that allow same-sex couples to marry. These figures show the extent of the work still to be done to build a world where everyone has equal rights, regardless of their orientation or identity.
Here are just some of the LGBT+ campaigns leveraging lawyers and the law to make a difference. We only have space to highlight a few of the amazing lawyers and organisations involved, we hope you enjoy reading about their aims and initiatives and are inspired to either get involved or donate funds to support their work.
Human Dignity Trust
The Human Dignity Trust works globally to make strategic challenges to laws that persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Since 2011 they have provided over £16M of pro-bono legal support to LGBT+ activists around the world. They have supported numerous court cases around the world and, since 2015, campaign for legislative reform.
The Trust also produces reports and films to raise awareness and change attitudes, with previous pieces highlighting the unique persecution that lesbian and bisexual women around the world face, the reform of sexual offence laws in the Commonwealth and the status of hate crime legislation around the world.
With a team of lawyers, researchers and communications specialists, plus the support of a panel of law firms and barristers around the world, Human Dignity Trust are using the law to drive life-changing reform. You can donate and support their work here.
Lawyers for LGBT and Allies Network was founded by a group of lawyers in Japan, to provide legal assistance and eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Providing resources to help employers make their workplaces more LGBT+ friendly, events and research, the group also raises the profile of LGBT+ issues, including the campaign to make same-sex marriage legal in Japan.
The first woman called to the bar in Cameroon, Alice Nkom has spent her life defending people from the LGBT+ community against persecution and prosecution. As well as taking on individual cases, Alice has been vocal in the international media, raising awareness of the discriminatory and violent behaviour her clients are subjected to by the authorities in Cameroon. Hear more about Alice’s latest case and her work here. To find more organisations campaigning for LGBT rights across Africa and the Commonwealth that you can lend your support to, visit The Commonwealth Equality network member page here.
The Vance Center
As part of their work to advance global justice, the Vance Center supports various programmes advancing LGBT+ rights, including the Alliance for Marriage in the Americas. This campaign staffed by lawyers working pro-bono has focused on changing the law to allow same-sex marriage in different countries across the Americas. The Center also partners with other NGOs around the world and works with the UN to campaign for equal rights.
InterLaw Diversity Forum
Chaired by Daniel Winterfeldt, partner at Reed Smith, the InterLaw Diversity Forum has hosted LGBT+ network meetings monthly since 2008. As the group has expanded, they now seek to expand the industry’s thinking across all areas of diversity, with particular focus on cultural change in the workplace and intersectionality.
With projects ranging from toolkits for employers, a diversity survey to help in-house counsel increase diversity within their partner firms, mentoring, research and publications, the Forum has mobilised across the legal industry in the UK to make the profession a better place to work for all.
Rights for all, regardless of orientation or identity
Pride Month prompts us to reflect on the amount of work still to be done in order to ensure that everyone has equal access to justice and can live their lives freely and with equal opportunities, regardless of their orientation or identity. We hope we see the day when this effort is no longer necessary, in the meantime we salute and support those in the legal profession who commit so much year-round to working for change.