Baroness Lindsay Northover on developing evidence-based policy to strengthen LGBT rights across the world

Tonight, Lindsay Northover, our International Development Minister is giving a speech at a Sexuality, Poverty and Law Symposium in Brighton, outlining DFID’s new approach to LGBT rights in developing countries.  Lindsay and Lynne Featherstone before her have been integral in putting DFID on the front foot in prioritising LGBT rights and protections everywhere DFID works.

The symposium is part of an ongoing DFID-funded research programme led by the Institute for Development Studies in Brighton, which will produce evidence-based, practical options for activists and policymakers for strengthening legal protection of LGBT people and sexuality rights. The research will also build understanding of the links between sexuality, gender plurality and poverty with the aim of improving economic policy and programming to support people marginalised because of their sexuality.

Here is her speech in full:

Thank you for inviting me to such an exciting and important symposium.

I am committed to a world in which no-one is left behind, a world where all women and men, girls and boys have equal opportunities to realise their rights, achieve their potential and live in dignity, free from extreme poverty, stigma, discrimination and violence.

I am committed to promoting inclusive societies, supported by a vibrant and effective civil society, where all people are valued and have the opportunity to participate fully in economic, social and political life.

This is essential for poverty reduction, equitable economic growth and sustainable development.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are important for poverty reduction. Where people are marginalised due to their sexuality they are likely to be poor.

The Sexuality, Poverty and Law Research Programme that we are suppprting at Sussex University is one of the first to look at these important issues.

You have raised key questions that need to be addressed about the scope and limitations of ‘turning to law’ in the context of sexuality and gender.

It is so important to have rigorous evidence of the impact of legal processes and to understand why, where legislation has been changed or discrimination and abuse successfully challenged, the benefits are not always sustained or evenly distributed.

That is why it is so important that this symposium is examining the changing dynamics of sexual politics.

We need to know how law and legal processes translate into actual experience in different socio-economic, political and legal contexts.

I would like to highlight the importance the UK Government places on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and outline our new approach.

UK Government position

The UK believes that everybody has the right to be included in development, no matter what their background or sexual orientation. Discrimination and homophobia damages societies and holds back economies.

All people have a right to be included in development.

The UK Government has an approach of inclusive development for all those who may be socially excluded.

The UK Government raises its voice wherever discrimination occurs.

We have a longstanding tradition of upholding human rights around the world.

Discrimination not only damages societies but holds back economies.

Countries cannot fully develop while they oppress minorities.

By excluding certain groups, countries hold back their potential.

Communities are stronger when they stand together and include all their elements.

Homophobia has a major human cost.  Butit’s bad for business as well.

As the President of the World Bank has pointed out, institutionalised discrimination is bad for economies.

When productive people are excluded from the workforce, GDP suffers.

The World Bank study on the economic costs of homophobia found that in the case of India, homophobia (in national policy) costs 0.1 – 1.7 percent of the country’s GDP.

In terms of development, homophobia has a significant negative impact.

Homophobia damages access to education, health care, and land rights.

Homophobia can also foster violence, desperation, substance abuse and may even lead to suicide.

It can lead to community and family breakdown and mental health issues.

The World Bank case study in India highlighted the enormous cost of health care due to homophobia. HIV disparity, depression, and suicide, three health issues that are particularly high among the LGBT population.

This costs India more than $700 million in 2012 and could be as much as $23 billion.

Discrimination runs completely counter to the core principles of international development and humanitarian aid.

Aid must be impartial and not based on nationality, race, religion, political point of view, or sexuality.

It must be based on need alone.

We regularly consult with human rights campaigners in developing countries who can promote human rights and diversity for all in development.

Our work in this area is constantly evolving so we can find the best ways to promote rights and diversity across the developing world.

The UK government’s vision is to eradicate poverty and transform economies by helping poorer countries achieve a secure, self-financed, timely exit from poverty.

Extreme poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated in population groups that face specific barriers or are harder to reach.

In recognition of the importance of protecting LGBT rights, we have specifically reviewed our work on LGBT issues and developed a new approach which focuses on: building a solid evidence base, strengthening southern voices, developing new partnerships, strengthening international negotiations, and integrating LGBT issues into DFID’s inclusion work.

It will be no surprise to you that our work needs to be built on a solid evidence base.

While evidence is starting to emerge on the relationship between sexuality and development, particularly in the global North at a country-level, there remains little established evidence on this relationship in the global South.

Beyond this lack of academic research, the “2011 UN Special Report on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” for the Human Rights Council notes a lack of systematic reporting on the situation of LGBT people, resulting in gaps in empirical data across many contexts.

This is why we have supported the Sexuality, Poverty and Law Research Programme at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex – the first research programme looking explicitly at the links between development and sexuality.

Recent experience has shown that there are increasing risks from loud championing of LGBT issues by the global North, stimulating a backlash on wider rights issues.

The first principle of UK engagement must be to do no harm.  There is a strong parallel with DFID’s approach to female genital mutilation.

Experience from the significant recent progress on FGM has shown that supporting change to deeply sensitive issues requires first supporting Southern leadership and voices for change.

Our efforts will focus primarily on catalysing a similar movement for LGBT.

DFID will work centrally and at country level to build linkages and to understand opportunities for leverage, including working with different voices to effect social change, and to build more constructive dialogue on LGBT rights within national and international politics.

There are many groups which can play an effective role in influencing decision-makers and changing social norms and attitudes.

These groups include:

  • International LGBT groups,
  • International development organisations,
  • Faith groups,
  • Trade unions,
  • Foundations and,
  • Private companies

There are already many exciting programmes of work I would like to share with you.

Stonewall convenes a regular roundtable discussion with the key international development organisations to build capacity on working with LGBT groups.

DFID is discussing the role faith groups can play on these issues with representatives from more than 40 faith groups at a workshop later this month.

There have been two meetings of Foundations supporting LGBT groups around the world to identify how we can work together more effectively.

There are a number of exciting initiatives with more than 50 LGBT champions in major multi-lateral corporations.

The work of these people and groups will complement government-to-government action, both bilaterally and through international fora, by influencing domestic interests and attitudes to LGBT rights over the longer-term.

The focus of the UK Government’s work on these issues is to: Hold the line on LGBT issues in international negotiations, including principles of equality and non-discrimination, while continuing to press for a broader rights focus, especially for vulnerable groups, and working to facilitate a developing-country-led LGBT rights movement in the longer term.

There have been some encouraging developments:  including the incorporation of LGBT issues in the draft World Bank Safeguards, the reference to discrimination in the Commonwealth Charter and the focus on leave no-one behind in the Post 2015 negotiations

Efforts to push new language on LGBT need to be built on substantive change domestically in the hard-line countries.

In the meantime, we will focus on building coalitions and alliances.

To ensure the long term success of this approach, LGBT issues are being integrated into a number of policies and programmes, including those focusing on women and girls, ‘Leave no-one behind’ and disability across DFID.

So thank you again for inviting me to such an exciting and important symposium.

I will be very interested in reading the findings from the Symposium.

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  • Lauren Salerno 6th Mar '15 - 8:33am

    Typical hypocrisy and yet more proof of the ineffectiveness of the LG group

    Not one mention of Transphobia or Bi phobia and just one mention of Gender Identity

    Diversity? LGB and T? Good God no !

    It is pathetic I have lost count of the times the party has forgotten the T in LGBT which is a shame as I joined because I thought the party was committed to us

    Oh yes LG crow over their Parliamentary work but where is the evidence?

    T is forgotten as ever – a lot will have to change before I renew my membership

  • Jane Ann Liston 6th Mar '15 - 9:57am

    Heading should be ‘Baroness Northover …’ or ‘Lindsay, Baroness Northover.’

  • Brenda Lana Smith 6th Mar '15 - 10:22am

    Meanhile, gender-variant folk—be we (transgender, transsexual, cross-dressers, or intersex) covert or overt, UK Gender Recognition Act 2004 preferred gender certificated or not—can be discriminated against with impunity on Bermuda and the UK’s other British Overseas Territories…

    Brenda Lana Smith D.
    Founder of “Stand up for Gender-Variant People’s Rights on Bermuda…”

  • Lauren Salerno 6th Mar '15 - 12:37pm

    Apparently so Brenda but then leadership and the LG farce don’t really acknowledge Trans issues

    Challenged NC over comments recently and the response in essence was that “Gay” covered us

    We get ignored by our Norman the lack of Health minister and he can’t even be bothered to reply

    Dave Page exactly the same; emailed my concerns and still waiting for a substantive reply

  • Brenda Lana Smith 6th Mar '15 - 5:04pm

    Sadly, Lauren, today’s LibDem Party’s “Clegeron” hierarchy has shown an ongoing lack of guts to go into bat for disenfranchised LGBTQI folk’s human rights in Britain’s own bailiwicks… which Lord Alex Carlile admirably displayed with his 1995/96 (then Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman) Private Members Bills in Parliament—which although failed eventually led to the UK’s dog breakfast (UK ONLY) Gender Recognition Act 2004… anyhow… believing that Lord Carlie’s LGBTQI supportive actions were that of his party, and that it would work to favourably extending full equality to disenfranchised LGBTQI folk on British Overseas Territories had this former Social Democratic Party transwoman member become a paid up member of our Liberal Democratic Party… however… how mistaken I was… nothing but empty rhetoric when it comes to favoorably resolving the legal plight of disenfranchised gender variant folk on the UK’s own British Overseas Territories is one of the prime causes of my being an openly LibDems4Change supporter… while I will be casting my postal vote as usual for my North Cornwall Lib-Dem candidate—roll on 2015-05-08…

  • Lauren Salerno 6th Mar '15 - 6:03pm

    Problem is the so called LGBT+ group are ineffective on T issues unless it’s self promotion

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