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Discrimination: LGBT

Volume 564: debated on Tuesday 18 June 2013

13. What steps the UK is taking with its international partners to prevent discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. (160010)

The United Kingdom works on human rights issues through international organisations, as well as bilaterally though our embassies and high commissions. Tackling discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is a UK priority. Our clear message is that human rights are universal, and should apply equally to all people.

Approximately three quarters of Commonwealth countries criminalise homosexuality. Will the Minister discuss the amendment of the Commonwealth charter to include LGBT equality, given the striking omission of discrimination on grounds of sexuality from the forms of discrimination to which the Commonwealth is rightly opposed?

If the hon. Lady has time, she should look at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s human rights and democracy report. It contains a section on LGBT rights, respect for which is an integral part of the Government’s wider international human rights programme. We lobby consistently to try to ensure—through our bilateral relations, and also through multilateral organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe and, indeed, the Commonwealth—that people respect human rights, irrespective of gender and sexual orientation.

The freedom to be oneself is a pretty fundamental human right. Will my hon. Friend ensure that organisations such as the Kaleidoscope Trust—which has a rather distinguished president, and whose parliamentary friends group I chair—Human Rights Watch and the Human Dignity Trust are able to work with his officials in territories where homosexuality is criminalised, and to support those who are standing up for the rights of LGBT people there?

My hon. Friend has made a powerful point. Of course I shall be happy to ensure that the relevant and important non-governmental organisations to which he has referred, along with others, engage with officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is also right to draw attention to the significant challenges that exist in some countries, but I assure him and other Members that we lobby vociferously, not just in countries such as Uganda and Nigeria but in Russia and Iran, where there are particular problems that need to be dealt with to ensure that there is equality of rights.

I urge the Minister to prioritise talking to other Commonwealth countries about this issue in the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. May I ask him specifically about Russia, however, where in the context of a wider crackdown on freedom of expression and human rights, the Duma has just passed a law introducing draconian penalties for propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations? Have the Government taken advantage of President Putin’s presence in the UK this week to push him on this issue and to urge him not to go down that path?

As I said a moment ago, we consistently lobby—through bilateral relations and our embassy in Moscow, as well as through the multilateral organisations I referred to earlier, particularly the UN with its universal periodic review—to make sure that countries like Russia adhere to the international framework for human rights, especially as it relates to LGBT rights. I can give the hon. Lady an assurance that we will continue to lobby through both those two sets of organisations, bilaterally and multilaterally, to try to make sure that all people have equal access to human rights.