Defending Dignity: A decade championing the rights of LGBT people

Since 2011 the Human Dignity Trust has been a leading player in fighting for and securing the decriminalisation of LGBT people. This report celebrates our key achievements in the 10 years since the Trust was founded.

This report celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Human Dignity Trust using the law to defend the rights of LGBT people globally.

The Trust played a pivotal role in the ongoing and rapidly accelerating movement towards decriminalisation in 2011-2021. We supported local partners with world-class legal expertise in 25 countries, achieving impactful and far-reaching wins in courts and assisting governments with law reform efforts. We have mobilised more than £18 million worth of pro bono legal expertise to assist us and our partners. Our research is at the forefront in examining the global legal landscape and demonstrating good practice in reforming discriminatory sexual offence laws and enacting protective legislation. Furthermore, our strategic communications work has contributed to the growing global awareness of the scourge of criminalisation and has measurably changed hearts and minds in favour of protecting the rights of LGBT people.

Four areas of the Trust’s work over the last 10 years are explored in the report: strategic human rights litigation; technical assistance for legislative reform; media, communications and public education; and, research, tools and publications.

Strategic human rights litigation is at the core of the Human Dignity Trust’s work. Working in close partnership with local lawyers and civil society, our in-house experts in international human rights law and comparative constitutional law together with our vast pro bono panel of barristers and solicitors held to ensure that cases are robust, draw from a wide range of supportive legal literature, and strategically contributed to the growing global jurisprudence in favour of decriminalisation and the recognition of LGBT human rights. Winning cases have: decriminalised consensual same-sex intimacy; upheld the right to freedom of association for LGBT people; banned the use of forced anal examinations; and, advanced LGBT-related asylum protection.

The Human Dignity Trust has provided highly-skilled technical legal and communications assistance to governments committed to changing the laws that criminalise or fail to protect LGBT people. While political will may exist to address these laws, access to adequate technical expertise and resources often remains a barrier to reform. Our legislative reform programmes exist to fill that gap, providing governments and other stakeholders with the world-class technical legal expertise needed to pursue successful reform.

To create enabling environments for legal change, our core legal work is now accompanied in almost all jurisdictions by support for sophisticated media, communications and public education campaigns. Our understanding of the unique communications needs associated with decriminalisation and recognition of the rights of LGBT people allows us to tell human stories, subtly dispel myths, and foster understanding and empathy towards LGBT people and other vulnerable groups, thus minimising public backlash against the changes in the law.

Our research, tools and publications have evolved into a growing body of authoritative and ground-breaking evidence and analysis, spanning briefing notes, in-depth case studies, pioneering legal analysis and innovative digital products. Taken together, these make up a formidable intellectual arsenal, which both makes the case for the need for legal change and provides the practical tools to successfully undertake it. We carry out research with the clear aim of significantly advancing legal change for LGBT people, including groups traditionally overlooked in the literature.

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