Global LGBT Rights

Part of Modern Slavery Act 2015 – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 26th October 2017.

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Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown 4:20 pm, 26th October 2017

That is exactly what I am coming to. I am trying to say that it is our duty to speak up because we were the ones that historically imposed some of these laws. We cannot just wash our hands and say, “Well, we’re anti-colonialists now, so we’ll just let you get on with it.” We have a duty to be proactive in our response. That is exactly the issue I am coming to, and I think we will agree on it.

Some 70% of Commonwealth countries have some sort of criminalisation of homosexual acts. Of course, we have CHOGM in this country next year, and we need to make sure that we are leading the way. I was at the CHOGM event in Sri Lanka—I was also at the event in Malta—as an observer for the Commonwealth Youth Forum, and it was very interesting in a number of respects. The young people had an interesting and detailed discussion around anti-LGBT discrimination. When the discussion was in the open plenary, it was touch and go whether we would pass some of the anti-LGBT discrimination clauses we were trying to get into the declaration. When we asked for them to go to a secret ballot, they passed overwhelmingly. When I asked the young people from Commonwealth countries, “Why the change later on?” they said, “Because we are afraid of our elders. We are afraid of often more established forces in our countries. But we and our friends, our colleagues and other young people in our countries do not see LGBT+ people as a problem. We actually see them as equal, and they should have their human rights respected.” That is very positive, and it is why it is so important that DFID and the Foreign Office continue to support young people in our Commonwealth countries and in other countries around the world in putting that argument.

Our role is not just to go into these countries again and to say, “Oh well, our old penal code was wrong. Reverse it.” Our role is to stand shoulder to shoulder with other LGBT activists—brothers and sisters—around the world and to support them. That is why it is so important, as my hon. Friend Stephen Twigg mentioned earlier, that embassies and DFID have small pots of cash to support groups on the ground. That is why it is so important that ambassadors know that they will get the backing of the FCO if they put their neck on the line to support local LGBT groups on the ground.

I was in Uganda earlier in the year speaking to some of the LGBT groups there, and they are very thankful for the ongoing support our high commission offers them, but one thing they do say is that when the high commissioner changes, there is sometimes a slight change of direction, and that needs to be something we are concerned about. The FCO needs to give clear guidelines to all ambassadors and high commissioners to make sure they know we have their backs.

I will wrap up by saying that we have an opportunity at CHOGM and the UN to push for support for people on the ground, and we must not let that opportunity go, while also speaking up against countries that breach human rights.