There is still a long way to go when it comes to the march for LGBT equality. There are a number of battles that need to be fought around the world from the embryonic struggle to end the criminalisation of homosexual activity to more complex areas like systemic homophobia in public institutions. In the case of the latter the ultimate symbol of progress is the choice of an LGBT person to become the leader of a country. However it is important to stress that this symbolism has a different significance in different political cultures.
In some European countries the idea of legal same-sex marriage is largely uncontroversial. For instance the Netherlands has had equal marriage since 2001, it being the first nation in the world to act. However the more eastward one travels, the more socially conservative countries appear to be on LGBT rights. I contend that 2017 will be an important year because it could be a watershed moment in the history of the European gay liberation movement. Evidently I may have been proven correct already as there has been progress in some parts of Europe in this very area. But even more can be made this year given the changes in public opinion in some European countries.
In Valetta the Maltese Parliament unanimously voted to pass the Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act, which prohibits gay conversion therapy. As a result of this legislation the small island nation becomes the first country in Europe to outlaw this barbaric practice. Indeed practicing medical professionals who recommend gay conversion therapy can be fined up to €10,000 and/or face up to a year in prison. Not only is this quite clearly a massive step forward for the LGBT people of Malta, but it sets an important precedent for the rest of Europe. It’s time for other European nations to act to outlaw this disgusting practice.
This weekend the Premier League and Rugby Football Union (RFU) shall formally throw their support behind the Rainbow Laces campaign, a pro-LGBT right movement that seeks to tackle homophobia in sport. These two organisations shall do this by providing rainbow laces for referees in the competitive fixtures taking place over the weekend. Sport is one of the final frontiers of LGBT acceptance in British secular society and I think most people shall look at games this weekend and feel a sense of pride, no pun intended, about how far we have come as a society.
When it comes to LGBT rights India has show a different progression to other countries. In many Western countries the chronology of LGBT rights struggles have been largely focused on LGB individuals, because the three are very inter-related, before attention turned to transgender issues. However this has not been the case. Transgender rights in India are more socially acceptable the rights for same-sex couples, which is refreshing but there is still much to be done.
Homophobia, on the other hand, is still commonplace and this issue isn’t discussed enough, both domestically and by foreigners like myself. The LGBT community’s progress is aided by the work of straight allies and India’s new surrogacy bill is an opportunity to build some bridges.
Italy is to take a step towards LGBT equality as it was announced that legislation legalising civil unions for same-sex couples is expected to be passed in the Chamber of Deputies. Considering the historical influence of the Catholic Church in Italian politics we have to commend the success of LGBT activists in getting this measure into the Italian political discourse, however we shouldn’t kid ourselves that this is anything other than piecemeal reform. Whilst we commend the struggle of our comrades in Italy, there are some parts of this law that show that equality is still a long way off.