I count myself fortunate, having had the opportunity and the freedom to attend Pride marches and gatherings in Belfast, London, Brighton, and other cities, over the past 30 years. Undoubtedly, the kaleidoscopic visibility of Pride festivals held annually around the globe helps in creating colourful positive vibes around all things LGBTQ+ whilst, simultaneously, promoting an increased sense of inclusivity for all those living under the rainbow.
For politicised reasons, equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community In Northern Ireland have largely lagged behind those of our counterparts residing in the rest of the UK. Regrettably, not all LGBTQ+ lives are coloured equally. However little or far we think we may have come, it could be a million miles from the LGBTQ+ lives of others around the world, where homosexuality itself or Pride may be outlawed. Geographically, we do not have to travel too far to set foot in in lands where LGBTQ+ people are at best shunned and ostracised, or at worst, in some cases, can result in death. Every individual or couple should be able to enjoy their lives in peace and be free from persecution regardless of race, religion, sexuality or gender. Every person should be able to freely express their identity without fear of persecution or violence.
Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England form part of the Commonwealth along with 53 other countries; which spans all six inhabited continents, and around 20% of the world’s land area, with 3.28 billion people, or one third of the world’s population. Although member states have no legal obligation to one another, it is the association’s values which unite its members: democracy, freedom, peace, the rule of law and opportunity for all. These values were agreed and set down by all Commonwealth Heads of Government. It is hard to believe that 37 of those 54 Commonwealth member states continue to criminalise consensual same sex activity, largely as a legacy of laws imposed during Britain’s colonial past.
To counter inequality and end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the Commonwealth, The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) was established in 2013. TCEN is a diverse network of 38 civil society organisations in 39 countries. It was not until June 2017 that TCEN became the first and only LGBTQ+ focused organisation to be officially accredited by the Commonwealth. The accreditation means that TCEN activists will benefit from increased access to, participation in, and information about Commonwealth matters, sending a strong signal that ‘the voices and needs of LGBTI people are legitimate and LGBTI activists have a vital role in civil society’.
While we once again celebrate Pride, it is good to remember those who, through no fault of their own, lead less fortunate lives due to outdated inhumane laws and attitudes. To find out more and/or show your support please visit https://antigaylaws.org/ where you will find a wealth of knowledge and links to resources that can be used in educating and raising awareness about those who may be at a stage where we once were. Maybe one day they too will be able to openly celebrate their lives with Pride without prejudice.