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Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to other countries on the decriminalisation of homosexuality in those countries where it is illegal. (185506)

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and officials have been active in promoting and protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in line with UK international policy. This is especially important in countries where same sex relationships are illegal, or there are moves to introduce criminalisation, where we seek ways to raise the issue and lobby for decriminalisation.

In May 2007, the then Minister for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) and I, as the then Minister for Women and Equality, issued a joint statement pledging our support for the worldwide protests against homophobia planned to mark the International Day against Homophobia (17 May).

Our High Commissioner in Singapore made representations to Singapore’s Attorney-General on 26 October 2007 about various human rights issues, including the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

The UK has long been at the forefront of encouraging the EU to speak out in favour of promoting and protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. At the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in September 2007, the EU condemned the fact that relationships between adults of the same sex are criminal in two participating states, namely Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The EU also called on all participating states to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people without discrimination.

Over the last year we have lobbied in support of the UN-Economic and Social Council continuing to grant consultative status to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered non-governmental organisations and we also lobbied to persuade Rwanda not to criminalise same sex acts in the revised penal code, and Nigeria not to outlaw advocacy in favour of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights.