In Scotland, we can pride ourselves on how progressive our country is, particularly when it comes to the rights and liberties of the LGBTQI+ community. We celebrate diversity, allowing those who identify as LGBTQI+ to thrive, and seek the same opportunities as their peers, despite any barriers that they may face. As a young bisexual woman, I’m able to feel safe in being open about who I am; which is something I am beyond grateful for.
I’m beyond grateful for this because I know that there are LGBTQI+ people in over 30 other Commonwealth countries who don’t share the freedom that I have. If they try to seek the same liberties, the same human rightsthat I have, they aren’t greeted with open arms and acceptance.
They can face flogging, a decade of hard labour, or, in the case of LGBTQI+ Bruneians, they face the possibility of being stoned to death. This is a law that was introduced by the Sultan of Brunei, with whom the UK Government has a close relationship. Indeed, it’s relationship that takes both a military and oil-related form, meaning that the chances of the UK Government taking action without pressure are slim to none. Well, they wereslim to none.
A few weeks ago, I saw an article on an LGBTQI+ news site that mentioned the law, and what it meant for many in my community. At the time, the law was going under the radar, which was probably what the Sultan of Brunei was hoping for. It’s a shame for him though, because I did what most folk do when they’re raging about something, and started a petition calling for the UK Government to take real action on this issue. I’m incredibly proud to say that, with the support of many colleagues sat in the room today, the petition now sits at over 85 thousand signatures and counting. We received a response from the UK Government this week, promising a strong alliance with the LGBTQI+ community internationally. Conference, we must hold them to this, by passing this resolution and showing that we put action over words.
Indeed, UK Government ministers have spoken about us being “patient” about change on this issue, describing the Sultan of Brunei as a “friend” of theirs. However, their relationship with the Sultan is representative of a much larger issue – the prioritisation of oil and military over people’s human rights. Brunei has stripped citizens of their right to vote, and made over 10,000 people stateless. Conference this is not something that we should be taking lightly, and calling out just one of their many human rights breaches will begin to bring light to the damage that this so-called “friendship” is doing for Bruneian citizens.
Please, colleagues, support this vital resolution and draw attention to an issue that has gone far too long without notice. LGBTQI+ people need allies, and the reversal of our rights is unjust and heartless.