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LGBT Rights

Volume 579: debated on Tuesday 8 April 2014

7. What his priorities are for tackling discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity internationally; and what steps the Government are taking to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide. (903581)

The UK is committed to combating violence and discrimination wherever it occurs. FCO Ministers have recently raised LGBT issues with the Governments of Nigeria, Russia, India and Uganda. We used our 2013 chairmanship of the Council of Europe to reform legislation in Europe, and at the UN we have raised concerns about several other countries.

There is great concern across the House that the Government’s response to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act has been too weak. This dreadful violation of human rights needs a strong international response to send a clear message not only to Uganda but to other countries contemplating similar legislation. Does the Secretary of State accept that quiet diplomacy is not enough and that it is now time for targeted travel bans and meaningful sanctions as a real statement that the UK will not tolerate such abuse?

I have spent a good deal of time studying this issue, which I regard as very important. First, it is important for us to encourage a long-term change in attitudes. In Uganda, we support training, advocacy and legal cases related to the protection of LGBT rights. We fund a project by the Kaleidoscope Trust. I myself met the leading Ugandan LGBT human rights activist, Dr Frank Mugisha, to illustrate the importance we attach to this. However, I judge that were we to implement sanctions or other measures, it would penalise poor people who benefit from our development aid or could produce a counter-productive response in other African countries. It is a difficult judgment, but the approach I have outlined is what I consider to be the right one.

There is anecdotal evidence that since the passing of the law there has been an increase in persecution of and attacks on Ugandans who are homosexual. Has the Secretary of State had any discussions with the Home Office on what approach it will take to those who seek refuge from persecution?

Of course, the Home Office applies strictly and properly the criteria for accepting people who are vulnerable to persecution as asylum seekers into this country. That can include people persecuted or at risk of discrimination or violence on grounds of LGBT activism, so that is an important criterion.