Perhaps they are in some ways the lucky ones, for they are still alive. Those figures of the number of people in prison do not include people executed in one of the seven countries where being gay is a capital crime. They do not include thousands who die from AIDS because LGBT people are excluded from effective HIV prevention programmes, or where stigma drives the illness underground where it is untreated. I was appalled to hear from the brave Jamaicans that I met with my noble friend Lord Lexden that HIV infection rates in that country are 32 times higher among men who have sex with men than among heterosexuals. Nor do the figures include the gay men who commit suicide because of the scorn they suffer when the structure of law discriminates against them—as many as 250 in Peru in recent years. They do not include those, such as David Kato in Uganda, who have been murdered for standing up for gay rights, or the Kenyan man stoned to death in a Nairobi slum by a mob in June of this year. In the chronicle of man’s inhumanity to man, in too many parts of our world, the suffering of gay men and women still stands out as a terrible indictment, including a significant number, as we have heard to our continuing shame, in the Commonwealth.

I said earlier that I was an optimist. I am also a realist and I know that there is a limit to what our Government can achieve. But we can do something. Of course, resources are tight, but we should, as a priority, commit to supporting decriminalisation programmes. We can work with the EU, which magnifies our influence, to tackle the problem. DfID can make sure that its human rights commitments include LGBT rights and decriminalisation in particular. That would sit in tandem with the vital work that the Human Dignity Trust is doing to tackle the problem at source in the structure of law. We must hold the feet of the Commonwealth to the fire to turn its fine words into action.

Finally, success in the areas that we have been talking about today—legislation, human rights, litigation and institutional barriers to equality—is but one first step. In many ways, the second is even more difficult; that is, cultural change. Let us consider this: in the

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UK, the structure of law changed in 1967. It probably took four decades for public opinion to catch up with the change in law. In the Commonwealth, in the developing world, that task will be even greater. That is but one reason why we must not delay in the first step. Time is not on our side.

5.06 pm

Lord Smith of Finsbury: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, for tabling this important debate and for the compelling way in which he introduced the subject to us. During the past 15 years, we have made huge progress in the UK in securing the rights and liberties of lesbians and gay men. We have recognised, thank goodness, that the love of one man for another or one woman for another does not make them any less valid or human.

Across all Europe and some parts of the United States, the same is true. But elsewhere, especially in the developing world, it is a much sadder story. In this debate, we have already heard about the 76 countries which have criminal laws against same-sex relationships, especially that 42 of the 54 countries of the Commonwealth have such criminalised laws. The continued existence of discrimination, violence and criminalisation in so many Commonwealth countries is particularly shaming. There is a bitter irony, as we have already heard, in that most laws in these countries have been inherited from us. I believe that that gives us a special responsibility to do whatever we can to help to change things.

There is an even more perverse irony. Many of these countries justify their laws and behaviour by arguing risibly that somehow homosexuality is something imposed on them and imported from the colonial West. In fact, precisely the reverse is true. Discrimination was imposed on them by the colonial West. There are horrific stories of the treatment meted out to people simply because they are gay.

In Jamaica, Brian Williamson and Steve Harvey were brutally murdered because they had dared to found the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. In Uganda, a young lesbian woman was denounced and beaten by her father, thrown into prison, and beaten and brutally raped by the police in prison. Two young women in Cameroon were attacked by a mob for being lesbian, with their arms broken by being snapped. Of course, the anti-homosexuality Bill now proposed in the Ugandan Parliament by Mr David Bahati MP would impose life imprisonment and, in some cases, a death penalty for sexual acts between men. These sorts of laws and actions shame our humanity; they mock any hopes that we might have of nurturing civilisation and decency across the world.

So what can we here in the UK do to help to bring about change? First, we can support the excellent work of organisations such as the Human Dignity Trust, the Kaleidoscope Trust and Human Rights Watch, which are challenging what is happening. Secondly, as individuals and Governments, we can speak out about these abuses, highlight them, give international publicity to them and protest formally and informally. International pressure can work; we have already heard about the Malawi case of the two gay men who were convicted of unnatural acts and gross indecency for

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holding an engagement ceremony. They were sentenced to 14 years’ hard labour in prison. Because of international pressure, the president pardoned the couple in question—but even more, the president who then took over from him, Joyce Banda, has announced that her Government will repeal the ban on homosexual acts. She has since indicated that progress may not be very fast in doing this, but the principle has been established as a result of international pressure.

Thirdly, we can ensure that when desperate people flee to our shores seeking asylum because of their fear or experience of discrimination and violence arising from their sexual orientation, we do not turn them away. Fourthly, we can and should support as strongly as we can those brave people who are standing up for their human rights and dignity in their own countries. Last week, I met a young man called David Kuria Mbote, who is the first openly gay black person to run for national office in Africa. He is a candidate for the Kenyan senate in next year’s elections; he is a remarkable person, and very brave. Part of his argument to his electors is that he is an outsider; he is different—he is not part of the establishment. That gives him a real advantage when it comes to rooting out corruption and reforming the political system. People are responding well to his message, although I fear that there are tough times for him ahead.

Ultimately, this is about winning the world for diversity and a welcoming of difference. Some 28 years ago, the leaders of the then group of seven major countries said:

“We believe in a rule of law which respects and protects without fear or favour the rights and liberties of every citizen, and provides the setting in which the human spirit can develop in freedom and diversity”.

That is what it is all about—recognising, accepting, welcoming and enjoying diversity, seeing it as an essential ingredient of freedom and making sure that that message is spread right around the world.

5.13 pm

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: My Lords, I am delighted to join other noble Lords in supporting my noble friend Lord Lexden in this debate. For the second time this week, I find myself a tail-end Charlie, at the end of a debate in which many points that I planned to make have been powerfully and eloquently made by other noble Lords. The red pen has once again been busy through my speech.

Being gay in many countries may be legislatively legal but a practical impossibility. The sad reality is that oppressive regimes and political persecution deny homosexuals the rights that we here in Britain have come to take for granted. Simple acts, such as Pride marches or even efforts to tackle HIV among homosexual men, are outlawed. When modest progress has been made, it is often all too easy to turn back the clock and deny people the rights that they have only just begun to enjoy. That is why this debate is so important. Britain’s strength lies in the freedom that it offers and the tolerance that it shows to all individuals; we, therefore, must be committed to supporting fundamental principles of human rights. In my view, that must include standing against efforts to persecute and discriminate against individuals on the basis of their

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sexuality. While accepting our international obligations, there are limitations to how Britain can influence and guide. As we have heard, many countries, especially those within the Commonwealth, still wrestle with legislative structures from a bygone colonial era which codify punishment for homosexual activity. As the noble Lord, Lord Smith, said, we have also seen recently in countries such as Uganda a highly effective propaganda effort to caricature homosexuality as a western affliction imported to threaten traditional values.

We should also take this opportunity to reflect on the scale of the challenge that remains. As we have seen in this country, legislative change is an important precursor to changes in society, with strong political leadership precipitating huge shifts in public attitudes to homosexual men and women. Consequently, while government efforts to ensure that British aid is not abused by homophobic regimes are welcome, we must also strive to ensure that these efforts do not inadvertently deprive deeply vulnerable people of vital aid to feed or care for themselves and risk inflaming further homophobic sentiment. The UK’s approach, set out in July 2011, goes some way to remedying this situation. The Government, while reducing the amount of aid given to support the budgets of other Governments by half, will ensure that trusted NGOs and other channels will be used to make sure that poor people in poverty do not suffer as a result. I believe that this approach will make better use of UK aid money and at the same time target support for the most vulnerable people in our world.

However, the Government are only one agent for change. We must also recognise the importance of business and commerce which provide vital inward investment and employment in many developing countries. They are engines of change, too. In preparing for this debate, I read Stonewall’s helpful, recently published booklet which provides guidance for employers on how they can further support their homosexual staff wherever they may be based around the world. It features the work of major employers such as Barclays, Ernst and Young and Simmons and Simmons, which are making enormous strides in practical ways to ensure that they can have the best personnel wherever they need them around the world. By doing so they are beginning to shift attitudes of their global workforces, both in their offices and beyond, whether in London or Lagos, São Paulo or Singapore.

In conclusion, what further efforts are the Government making to ensure that British aid is reaching the most vulnerable in our world while at the same time ensuring that this aid is not abused by homophobic regimes? How are the Government working with British businesses to support equality in the developing world? Finally, what are the Government doing to promote the idea that our success as a 21st century nation has been, and will continue to be, best secured by ensuring that all our citizens can live and work free from this discrimination?

5.17 pm

Baroness Barker: I wish to speak briefly in the gap and raise two issues which I think have not been raised in the debate. A number of noble Lords have referred

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to the fact that in October 2011 the British Government announced conditionality in regard to the overseas aid budget. Will the Minister tell us exactly how the Government intend to monitor that policy and its implementation? The noble Baroness, Lady Nye, well expressed the fear that that policy could create a gap into which right-wing evangelical churches might step to influence poor people in developing countries. I do not think any of us would wish to see that. However, we do wish to see the overseas aid budget being used to advance equality and diversity. If our Government were to monitor this carefully, we could come up with a new model of overseas aid funding for ourselves and other Governments. That would be an important provision.

My second point is a very minor one. Could the Foreign and Commonwealth Office operate a scheme whereby its travel advice states the factual case of each country in relation to the law governing lesbians and gay men? I think that many people know about the awful situation in Uganda, Ghana and perhaps in the Ukraine. However, there are other countries where the situation is perhaps as bad but is not as well known. I would like travellers to be able to use their own independent economic power to not support those countries which are highly discriminatory and to support the ones which are not. We might include in that some of the states of the United States of America which currently appear to be going back to a time of discrimination which we thought had passed.

5.20 pm

Lord Collins of Highbury: My Lords, if there is a coalition I am extremely proud of it is the one that has initiated and backed this debate. In particular, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, for putting down the Question which has prompted the discussion.

This country can celebrate the fact that all the major parties are united on this subject. Over the last 25 years the situation for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain has changed significantly. I am also proud that much of that progress was made under the last Government though we should not underestimate the problems that remain, in particular the level of homophobia in our schools. However, Britain can now rightly claim to be a beacon of equality to the world of gay people. Sadly, as we have heard in this debate, this progress is not reflected in the developing world. From Iraq to Uganda, lesbian and gay people are still systematically persecuted. As we have also heard in this debate, this prejudice often stops gay people accessing the healthcare, education and employment they need.

This is why decriminalisation worldwide is so important. However, even in countries where homosexuality is legal, lesbian and gay people are often subjected to human rights abuses. South Africa was the first country in the world to enshrine the human rights of gay people in its constitution in 1993. Yet lesbians in South Africa still live in fear of so-called “corrective rape”. As we have also heard, the freedom of expression and association of gay people is regularly denied in countries closer to home such as Russia, Ukraine and Serbia.

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As the noble Lord, Lord Black, has said, we cannot pretend that this does not affect us here. Gay people around the world look to Britain to offer them refuge from this discrimination. Britain and our partners have an important role in challenging these human rights abuses. It is not, however, without risk. There is increasing opposition to the “western” notion that gay rights are human rights. We need only to look at the recent resolution, proposed by Russia at the United Nations Human Rights Council and passed with the support of 25 other states, affirming that “traditional values” should be the basis of human rights. This has given credibility to the abuses perpetuated by anti-gay Governments around the world. This is one of the many reasons why diplomatic action is so important. I welcome the way that the FCO is now working closely with organisations such as Stonewall, the Kaleidoscope Trust and others that have been mentioned in the debate, on how they can oppose these efforts to legitimise human rights abuses of gay people worldwide. Placing conditions on the recipients of development aid might also play a role, but we cannot ignore the risk that removing aid from countries for human rights abuses against gay people may affect the poorest in those countries. Not only would that give fuel to those who argue that homosexuality is something being imposed on those countries by the West, it may—as we have also heard in this debate—worsen the situation for gay people. They are likely in any case to be among the poorest and most disadvantaged in countries that receive aid, and unable to access jobs, education or healthcare. Nor can we ignore the fact that we are not the only suppliers in the aid marketplace. It would be disastrous if we pushed recipient countries into the arms of donors such as Iran and China, and we must not lose what influence that we already have in those countries.

As we have heard—and this is a main issue—real progress on gay equality will ultimately come from grass-roots movements. However, we need to help create the conditions where those local gay rights movements can emerge. So in conclusion I should like to ask questions of the Minister. What direct assistance will the Government provide, either financially or politically, to support the development of lesbian, gay and bisexual movements worldwide? What will the Government do to encourage aid charities, through which significant amounts of DfID investment is delivered, to support lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals and movements globally? Finally, will the Government ensure, through the UK Border Agency, that lesbian and gay people are provided with a real safe haven when they flee from the persecution that has been described today?

5.26 pm

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Lexden for introducing so effectively this important debate on the treatment of homosexual men and women in the developing world. We have heard from him, the noble Lord, Lord Black, and others the terrible circumstances that many homosexual people face across the world.

I am glad that we have given sanctuary to Toby, whose terrible case my noble friend Lord Lexden cited, but I recognise that he can never fully recover

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from his appalling experience. I hear what my noble friend Lord Lester has said about religious fundamentalism and how this may be becoming worse. I welcome the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester’s statement that discrimination is “an affront” to Christian values. I welcome his clear condemnation of such discrimination. I also commend the work of the Human Dignity Trust, Kaleidoscope and other organisations that are working to address these issues internationally.

We are talking about people who are often scared to be who they are. In many cases they conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity from their family, friends and societies. They often rightly fear victimisation, violence, detention, imprisonment and even death, simply because of who they are.

We are absolutely clear that human rights are universal and apply equally to all people. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 affirms as much, but we hear from my noble friend Lord Lexden and others how these rights are breached. However, I can confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Lester, that criminalisation of homosexuality is clearly a violation of international law. We have strong commitments both to international human rights and to international development. Development cannot be achieved without respecting rights, and my noble friend Lady Jenkin is right to link those.

UK aid is used to promote an environment in which all people can claim their rights in open societies. We look for ways to ensure that people who are marginalised or excluded for whatever reason, including sexual orientation, can access the information, service and resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty. It is often those people who are at the risk of human rights abuses in developing countries who need our help the most. In 2011—various noble Lords referred to this—we strengthened our partnership principles. These require that before providing direct support to Governments, we assess their shared commitment to reducing poverty, respecting human rights, improving public financial management, fighting corruption and being more accountable to their own citizens.

The noble Lord, Lord Smith, noted the actions taken in Malawi. Recipients of aid are aware of the pressure in relation to human rights, and I hope that that is also reassuring to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about the assistance that we provide to support the development of relevant movements world wide and what we do to encourage charities to support these movements. As other noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, and others, have noted, civil society plays an important role in supporting the rights of homosexuals in developing countries. We provide targeted support to locally led groups so that they can tackle discrimination and support communities in accessing the resources and services that they need. For example, through a £52 million partnership with the International Planned Parenthood Federation, we are supporting members of the LGBT rights organisations in improving access to health services.

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The noble Baroness, Lady Nye, was right that it is very important to support groups in civil society, but she pointed out the difficulties of being, as it were, heavy-handed—a point reiterated by the noble Lord, Lord Collins. Clearly, working internationally to ensure the recognition of human rights law is very important, although I heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, that that can be counterproductive. She also asked what we are doing to challenge these countries. Obviously, how we approach this matter varies from country to country.

Noble Lords have heard what is happening in Malawi. I point out that we have raised our concerns about the Bill in Uganda at the most senior levels. The former Minister for Africa raised this when he met President Museveni in March and he did so again with the vice-president in August. We have also raised our concerns regarding the Bill in the Ukraine, and that has been reiterated through the EU. In Ethiopia, Lynne Featherstone, my honourable friend in the Commons, has raised this issue with the former Prime Minister. In Russia, we have made it clear that legislation is incompatible with Council of Europe guidelines.

My noble friend Lady Brinton asked about Somalia and Sierra Leone. In relation to Sierra Leone, the principle of human rights will kick in because that country has just received the last tranche of budget support. Therefore, human rights provisions will be applied if and when more money is sent through.

If I miss out anything, given the number of issues that noble Lords have raised, I shall write to them.

The noble Lords, Lord Rea and Lord Fowler, raised the issue of HIV/AIDS and the stigma attached to it, as well as the difficulty that people have accessing the care that they need. Both noble Lords will be aware that the United Kingdom is strongly supporting the funding of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. We are acutely aware of the particular challenges that homosexuals face in this regard. Alan Duncan, the Minister of State, announced in July new DfID resources for the Robert Carr fund, supporting global and regional networks to improve HIV responses reaching key populations.

My noble friend Lord Lester asked whether the Government are considering joining, as a partner Government, the Global Equality Fund. We are impressed by the model of the Global Equality Fund. We are not currently considering supporting it but we are funding work that complements the fund. When I was briefed on this, I was particularly pleased to hear about the support that we are giving to a four-year programme at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex to strengthen effective policy options on sexuality, poverty and law. This is the biggest programme of its kind that we know of, and the UK is putting £1.25 million into it. That is a very welcome development.

We support country-level funding for LGBT programmes and groups, as well as providing opportunities to access funding through the FCO’s human rights

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and democracy programme. Noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Lester, asked me about that.

Clearly, this is a major challenge and despite the work we are doing, we do not underestimate the huge amount that still needs to be done. The UK is working internationally, as I have mentioned. It plays a key role in building support through a number of international organisations, including the United Nations, working towards global decriminalisation of homosexuality. We also work with EU partners, which is increasingly important in this area. EU member states and the European External Action Service have committed to develop a strategy on co-operation with third countries on the human rights of LGBT persons, including working through the UN and the Council of Europe. We are determined to contribute fully to a robust and effective EU strategy in this regard.

We are also pleased that the refreshed Canada-UK joint declaration, signed by our two Prime Ministers and by the Foreign Secretary in September, now includes a commitment that we will work together to continue to press countries around the world to repeal aggressive and punitive laws criminalising homosexuality, which are incompatible with human rights.

My noble friends Lord Lexden, Lord Lester, Lord Black and others mentioned the Commonwealth. We are hugely encouraged to hear that Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers, at their meeting on 29 September, agreed the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group recommendations that access to treatment for HIV/AIDS should be without discrimination and that discriminatory laws that impede access to treatment should be addressed. As a valuable partner in promoting human rights globally and in helping to deliver UK human rights priorities, we are committed to working with the Commonwealth to help them to uphold the values of human rights.

The Commonwealth modernisation agenda for 2012 includes the delivery of a charter for the Commonwealth which reflects its core values, including strengthening language on opposing discrimination on all grounds, which would cover this area. I can assure my noble friend Lord Lester and others that our embassies and high commissions around the world also play an important part in this regard. I know that the Department for International Development is seeking opportunities to promote human rights, including in this area.

My noble friend Lady Barker flagged up an interesting point. The FCO travel advice includes guidance specifically on the situation for LGBT people in relevant countries. It may be that some of that information might be used to good effect in the way that she suggests.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, is right: we are united on this. The UK has an important role to play in international efforts to promote tolerance and non-discrimination against homosexuals and to address discriminatory laws. This debate has been an important reminder of how this is indeed a case of human rights and individuals’ ability to live their lives free from poverty or fear.

House adjourned at 5.38 pm.