ADVANCING LGBT RIGHTS WITH THE HUMAN DIGNITY TRUST

"This is the first day of my life in which it is legal for me to be me." These are the words of Caleb Orozco, a human rights activist, whose story inspired me to help others like him all over the globe.

Back in the summer of 2014 I attended the Herbert Smith Freehills vacation scheme. I heard a fellow vacation schemer explain how her supervisor was helping to provide legal advice to a charity that was tackling the criminalisation of homosexuality around the world. I flagged my interest and met with the HSF team working on the project. At the time, they were assisting with a pioneering challenge to the anti-homosexuality legislation in Belize, brought by Caleb (which was subsequently successful).

Fast forward to today and I am now a trainee with HSF and a member of that inspiring team. We work alongside the Human Dignity Trust, a charity dedicated to advancing the legal rights of LGBT people the world over. The Human Dignity Trust aims to tackle the 75 jurisdictions with laws criminalising private, consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex. HSF assist with legal analysis, support, and research in order to advance those goals. This has seen members of the team fly to jurisdictions in the Caribbean to present to local activists in order to find a test claimant willing to challenge the criminalising legislation.

The Caribbean is an interesting area in the fact that many jurisdictions have draconian anti-homosexuality legislation, yet also have constitutions enshrining human rights, such as the right to: privacy and family life; to a dignified life; and to non-discrimination. It is against this backdrop that test claimants like Caleb are challenging the legality of anti-homosexuality provisions in their countries. Caleb stood up against the government, and in so doing endured assaults and death threats against him and his family. But he persevered and was finally successful in 2016, where the Chief Justice of Belize held that Section 53 of the criminal code was unconstitutional, and violated Caleb's human rights to dignity, privacy, and freedom of expression. It was through hearing Caleb's struggle, that I was compelled to try and ensure that others like him were not living as criminals in their own countries, just for who they were.

Despite Caleb's amazing success, there is still a huge way to go. In 13 jurisdictions being gay or bisexual is punishable by death and 17 countries prohibit 'propaganda' deemed to promote LGBT communities or identities. It is therefore vital to not be complacent on these issues, and for firms like HSF to continue providing the expert resources and legal analysis that enables the Human Dignity Trust to do what they do. Through communal endeavour, and dedicated people, I hope that during my lifetime that figure of 75 jurisdictions will become zero.

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