The UK Government directly challenge other Governments that criminalise homosexuality. We support LGBT people through tackling exclusion and violence against them and through increasing their access to services. LGBT inclusion is one of the eight priority areas in DFID’s new UK Aid Connect programme.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. Does she agree, given that the Government have led on LGBT rights in the UK, that our international aid programme now has a significant part to play in taking leadership on this issue on the international stage?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. People having the freedom to be who they are and to reach their full potential is vital if nations are to reach their full potential.
We will take that opportunity, and others, to raise all those issues in the sessions with civil society and in the bilateral conversations that will take place throughout that week and in the run-up to it. We have set a standard, and we can encourage people to follow. Through DFID’s work, and through the incentives that we can provide, we can also provide other reasons for countries to do the right thing.
My right hon. Friend is right to identify those countries that criminalise people who are gay, but what about those countries that tolerate prejudice against gay people? What can we do in those cases?
There are several things that we can do to address those issues, one of which is to strengthen the voice of those organisations that highlight abuse and discrimination. The UK Aid Connect programme will do that. It will provide funding to civil society groups to help us to understand what is happening in particular locations and what is needed to address the issues.
Today is the final day of UK LGBT history month. One of our nation’s lasting legacies has been the exporting of anti-gay laws around the world, and 36 of the 53 Commonwealth countries still criminalise homosexuality. The upcoming Commonwealth summit in April, hosted by the UK, is a golden opportunity for us to champion LGBT rights. However, reports in the Canadian press last week suggest that the Heads of Government communiqué is unlikely to mention LGBT rights. Will the Secretary of State consider what extra development assistance and funding she can now provide to LGBT activists and civil society across the Commonwealth, to ensure that we do not give up on change in the Commonwealth?
Do not be disheartened: we will still raise the issue. It is a strand of work that is going on. In addition to the UK Aid Connect programme that I have just outlined, I relaunched the DFID LGBT network at the start of the history week. Strengthening the support that our staff have to raise these issues—including staff who are LGBT themselves and who are required to work in-country—is vital to furthering this agenda.
I should advise the House that parliamentarians from, if memory serves, at least 28 Commonwealth countries are present in Westminster today, and possibly tomorrow, for a conference. That would be a heaven-sent opportunity for Members to seek to lobby those colleagues.