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On to the streets: Activism and rights

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LGBT people, groups and organisations have campaigned for social equality for centuries. The first published defence of homosexuality written in English was published in 1749.

Following the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967, activist campaigns focused on securing the same rights in Scotland and Northern Ireland - this was achieved in 1980 and 1982 respectively. Later campaigns have focused on bringing about full social equality for LGBT people, including equal marriage rights, adoption rights and the age of consent. Others have attempted to tackle hate crime, homophobia, transphobia and biphobia, such as the important protests against Clause 28, which banned the distribution of material seen to promote homosexuality.

Although activism can suggest protests, campaigns and marches, it can also take subtler forms. Artists and designers have sometimes used their work as a means of making same-sex love and desire more visible or to challenge gender stereotypes and conventions. Some LGBT public figures participate in a form of ‘everyday activism’, simply by living their lives and conducting their relationships openly in public.

Today consensual same-sex relations are illegal in 78 countries worldwide and in some of those places punishments include the death penalty. Across the world there remains great inequality for LGBT people as anti-LGBT laws continue to be enacted and enforced. Despite years of campaigning and activism many individuals, groups and organisations still operate to protect existing LGBT rights and to campaign for complete social equality worldwide.