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Across the world, discriminatory laws and social attitudes continue to exclude and marginalise lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and others (LGBT+) on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation. This puts them at greater risk of violence and of experiencing worse socio-economic outcomes.

The ‘+’ symbol is used to include people whose identities do not fit typical binary notions of male and female, or who decide to identify themselves using other categories to describe their gender identity or their sexuality.

Successive governments have said that the promotion and protection of the human rights of LGBT+ people internationally is a priority.

The UK Government had planned to host the international conference, Safe to Be Me, in June 2022 to bring together countries, businesses and international civil society organisations to address global LGBT+ inclusion.

However, following the Government’s decision to introduce a ban on conversion therapy for gay or bisexual people but not for transgender people in the 2022 Queen’s Speech, many UK charities withdrew from attending. The Government subsequently announced it would cancel the June 2022 conference.

In many countries, the pandemic is likely to have reinforced discrimination and the marginalisation of LGBT+ people. However, a major barrier to assessing the degree to which is the case is the lack of data on the lives of LGBT+ people worldwide (especially in counties where there are restrictions against LGBT+ people). However, there have been news-reports that LGBT+ people have been blamed for the spread of coronavirus and experienced reduced access to health services (including for HIV/AIDS).

Prior to the pandemic, the World Bank estimated that sexual and gender minorities were already likely to be overrepresented among the 40% of the world’s poorest.  

The UK seeks to use its aid spending and diplomatic reach to improve the lives of LGBT+ people globally, with a particular focus on Commonwealth states. Many members of the Commonwealth retain colonial-era legislation that criminalises or discriminates against LGBT+ people: As of July 2021, 35 of the 53 Commonwealth countries had laws that criminalise homosexuality.

The all-party parliamentary group on global LGBT+ rights has called for the UK to commit at least £55 million per annum on LGBT+ inclusion globally—in 2020/21 it committed £5.5 million to targeted international programmes. Note, however, this estimate does not include all projects that had LGBT+ people among their beneficiaries.

This briefing sets out the potential effects of the pandemic on LGBT+ people globally, UK diplomatic efforts to promote LGBT+ inclusion worldwide, and the strategy and spending of UK aid to support LGBT+ issues internationally.

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