Global LGBT Rights

Part of Modern Slavery Act 2015 – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 26th October 2017.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 4:45 pm, 26th October 2017

I am sorry, but I am running out of time.

Turning to the Commonwealth, it is currently the case that 36 out of 52 Commonwealth countries still criminalise homosexuality. The UK Government have a special duty and responsibility to help change hearts and minds in our fellow Commonwealth countries. Next April, we are hosting the Commonwealth summit in London and Windsor. We will be using this opportunity to make sure that we discuss the important issue of LGBT equality in the Commonwealth.

Many hon. Members raised concerns about particular countries and the tragic difficulties faced by LGBT people in countries around the world. This year, there have been numerous reports regarding the horrific situation in Chechnya for LGBT people. The UK was among the first countries that expressed concern about the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya. We continue to lobby the Russian Government to investigate properly and to hold perpetrators to account. On 13 April, the Foreign Secretary co-signed a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov calling on the Russian Government to investigate and ensure the safety of journalists and activists investigating those abuses. Officials at our embassy in Moscow have also raised concerns at a senior level with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

We are also concerned about the recent crackdown on LGBT rights in Egypt. The Egyptian Government are well aware of our position on LGBT rights and we have called on the Government of Egypt to uphold and protect the rights of all minorities in the country. We are concerned about reports which suggest that some LGBT people detained in Egypt have been tortured, and we are continuing to monitor human rights there. We also continue to urge the Egyptian Government to implement the human rights provisions in their own constitution, and to investigate all reports of abuse against detainees.

We are also deeply concerned about reports that some members of the LGBT community in Azerbaijan have been arrested and detained by the authorities. We are monitoring the human rights situation in that country closely, and we regularly press its Government to meet their international obligations to protect the rights of all its citizens, including those who are LGBT. Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have raised those specific reports with the Government of Azerbaijan, and we have received assurances that those who were arrested have now been released.

Stephen Twigg expressed his concerns about Tanzania. We are, again, very concerned by the increased anti-homosexual rhetoric and the deteriorating environment for LGBT people there. Our high commission, along with partners and international LGBT organisations in Dar es Salaam, are monitoring the situation closely. As a close friend and partner of Tanzania, we have conversations about this and many other human rights issues with its Government.

My hon. Friend Crispin Blunt raised the issue of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. In December last year, NHS England and Public Health England announced that up to £10 million would be made available for a three-year trial of PrEP to answer outstanding questions about future access and implementation. The trial is intended to establish the most effective way in which to distribute the drug in order to have the greatest possible impact on reducing the spread of HIV.

Kerry McCarthy referred to the action plan on business and human rights. Last year the Government published guidance for businesses to implement the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights, and that update reaffirms the UK’s commitment to the implementation of those principles.

This has been a hugely important debate. It has sent a united message from this Parliament to all the countries that criminalise being LGBT to take steps towards the decriminalisation of something that is simply a part of an individual’s nature.