When I received an email asking whether there were any countries about which I would like more information before the debate, I thought to myself, “Where do I begin?” I do not wish to talk down the progress that has been made, because we have made great progress, but the world is still a much smaller and more dangerous place for LGBTI people, whether we like it or not. In more than 30% of the 225 countries and territories listed on the Foreign Office travel advice website, homosexuality or homosexual acts are illegal. For nearly a quarter of them, there is a warning of some kind for LGBTI people. While we have the luxury of heeding that advice, as Mr Evans said in the case of the UAE, people living there have no such luxury. The advice that frequently appears for countries where being LGBTI is legal but “frowned upon” or not “universally accepted” is, “You should be discreet.” Let us imagine living our lives that way; it is as absurd as asking someone to be discreet about their height.
The advice for countries such as Armenia, where homosexuality is legal, says about the culture there:
“same sex couples are often seen holding hands and kissing in public, this is common…and is not necessarily an indicator of sexual orientation.”
So it is not the act of the same-sex couple holding hands or kissing that is the problem; it is their sexuality. That is heterosexual privilege in action.
Often it is that intolerance bubbling under the surface of society that leads to the shocking attacks against LGBTI people that we have seen around the world. It is not enough to decriminalise homosexuality; there must be laws protecting the rights and safety of LGBTI people and an effort to make sure that society catches up with those laws by supporting LGBTI groups working in communities. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many LGBTI people around the world.
It is up to progressive countries like ours to lead the way in global LGBT rights, particularly in Commonwealth countries, but to do so we must make sure our own house is in order. It is shameful that comprehensive research by the Time for Inclusive Education—TIE—campaign in Scotland found that 90% of LGBTI young people experience homophobia, biphobia and transphobia at school, with 27% having attempted suicide as a result of that bullying. I agree with my hon. Friend Stephen Twigg about section 28, but in some ways we have not moved on in that regard; there is still a hangover from that legislation.