Human rights and the LGBT community

By Kat Fleming-Scott and Danny Briggs, Housing Services Processing Officers and members of Riverside’s LGBT staff network Spectrum

Today we commemorate the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The UDHR was one of the UN’s first major achievements as well as the first time human rights were officially recognised across the world. It means that every person is entitled to a certain level of treatment regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Drafted by diverse representatives from all regions of the world, the UDHR sets out universal values and a common standard:

“We stand here today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and the life of all mankind. This declaration may well become the international Magna Carta for all men everywhere – Eleanor Roosevelt, the driving force behind the UDHR, on its presentation to the UN General Assembly.

The UN General Assembly said the UDHR’s principles are ‘the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations’ and it is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.

Thanks to the UDHR and the nation states’ commitment to its principles, millions of people have been given the dignity they deserve, laying the foundations for a more just world.

Even though the declaration is not a binding document, it has inspired more than 60 human rights instruments that today make a common standard of human rights.

The UDHR empowers us all, the principles of the declaration are as relevant today as they were in 1948 but despite the efforts to protect human rights, hostility towards many individuals and groups continues.

Its promise is still to be fully realised and we need to continue to stand up for our own rights and those of others.


So where does the LGBT community fit into this act?

According to Stonewall, the Human Rights Act underpins a lot of LGBT equality. Here are just some of the ways the LGBT community is positively impacted by it.


Our right to live and work freely

Whether it’s going to work, serving in the military, staying in a hotel or accessing healthcare, human rights laws helps protect us from discrimination. If this is denied, we can seek justice.


Our right to love

LGBT people can start a family, get married and share their lives with the people they love. Human rights legislation protects our right to family life and it means the state can’t discriminate.


Our right to be who we are

Human rights legislation paved the way for the Gender Recognition Act, providing rights for trans people in Britain. The GRA needs reform but the Human Rights Act started us on a journey to trans equality.


Our right to be safe

LGBT people should be able to walk down the street without fear of abuse, hate or violence.  We should be free to hold our partner’s hand without fear and be free from bullying at work and school.


Our right to make sure everyone, everywhere is accepted without exception

We’ve secured great protections for LGBT people. But internationally the picture is very different. In some countries, LGBT people face not discrimination but state-endorsed persecution. Human rights legislation has ensured that can never happen here.


We have come a long way but there is still work to be done. While nearly all of the EU member states, 27 of the 28, protect trans people from workplace discrimination, just 73 out of 195 countries worldwide protect people from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

We can all do our part by upholding and promoting equal, inclusive and un-discriminatory rights and behaviours towards everyone, and we can all take action in our own daily lives to uphold the rights that protect us all the thereby promote the kinship of all human beings.