The start of June kicks off Pride Month - a month dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ communities around the world.

Pride is a celebration of people coming together in love and friendship to show how far LGBTQ+ rights have come and how there's still work to be done, especially in the maritime environment.

Martyn Illingworth, Head of Operations at Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) recently participated I Exist Too - a forum organised by Gustavo Abdiel Aguilar-Miranda, a PhD candidate at Newcastle University, researching the LGBTQ+ population within the maritime sector. The forum aims to improve the visibility and rights of LGBTIQ+ people in the shipping industry.

I Exist Too Logo

As part of the panel aiming to make visible initiatives that promote the inclusion and protection of LGBTQ+ employees within the maritime sector, Martyn delivered this thought-provoking speech:

"As you will have heard over the duration of this exceptional event, the lives of LGBTQ+ people at sea can be exceptionally difficult; many of us are fortunate enough to live in countries where LGBTQ+ rights are largely taken for granted now, and where attitudes are increasingly supportive.

And I know that I have considerable privilege as a gay male in Western Europe, and I believe it's incumbent on me to use that privilege and incumbent on others to use their privilege to support others. There are still 67 countries in the world where my sexuality as a gay person is illegal. And many more countries where the prevailing attitude towards homosexuality and queerness is negative.

Human Rights at Sea knows of people serving on vessels who have gotten into trouble with local law enforcement when docked in port purely because of who they are. We also know of plenty of gay men and women who feel unsafe disembarking in certain countries.

And then we know of countless examples of gay people feeling unable to come out of work, or queer people being bullied and harassed at work because of their sexuality, being physically assaulted even and sadly, we also know of cases where people have taken their lives at sea because of their sexuality, and how people treat them.

Now these issues aren't easy to solve. Changing laws, along with hearts and minds, is never simple. But the inescapable facts are that we have a global maritime workforce that has to visit coastal nations and has to work alongside people from hundreds of different countries.

We cannot change laws and attitudes overnight, but we can make a start. Maritime companies have to have fully inclusive policies and practices.

But more than that, they have to make sure that these inclusive policies and practices are translated into actual practical action on board vessels.

Corporate culture set in headquarters based in liberal countries doesn't always translate to life abroad vessels. Companies have to assure themselves that they are walking the walk as well as talking the talk when it comes to inclusive policies and practices.

They also need to use their considerable weight to advocate for and support law, policy, and attitude changes in countries in which they operate and visit.

Business has a role to play in supporting, protecting and promoting human rights around the world.

The UN guiding principles are something that all maritime companies need to be intimately familiar with.

Because ultimately, the lives of the LGBTQ+ people who work for these companies are important, and we deserve more than a pride coloured logo once a year."

Human Rights at Sea stands with the LGBTQ+ community this Pride Month and all year round.

We see you, we understand the challenges you're experiencing, and we will continue to use our platform to highlight the problem, provide guidance for victims, engage with the maritime sector and expose companies who do not protect individuals at sea equally or adequately.

Contact: If you have any questions, please write to us at

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