The United Kingdom has a ‘really important role’ to play in improving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights across the world, according to Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert.
The MP described how global LGBT rights is a ‘tale of two worlds’ as Parliament had passed same-sex marriage legislation in 2013, but at the same time 75 countries criminalise same-sex activity between consenting adults, covering a population of 2.9 billion people.
Mr Herbert, who is chair of the all-party parliamentary group on global lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, welcomed recent comments from Prime Minister Theresa May about the UK Government’s special responsibility to ‘help change hearts and minds’ in Commonwealth nations given the remaining anti-LGBT laws in some countries are a legacy of Britain’s colonial past.
During the House of Commons debate on Thursday (October 26), he said: “The United Kingdom has a really important role. We are still the fifth largest economy in the world. We have a global reach.
“We have important historic ties across the world, not least through the Commonwealth. We have one of the largest aid budgets in the world and the massive opportunity to exercise soft power and influence.”
Mr Herbert added: “We should not underestimate the fact that taking such a stance is not trite and not trivial. It matters. It matters in the eyes of the communities and activists who are looking for our support in other countries.
“People will be watching this debate, and they want to know that this house supports these communities on a cross-party basis and that the British Government supports them.
“We are talking about thousands of activists and millions of people. Let freedom ring for them.”
Equalities minister Nick Gibb, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP, said: “The effect of successive Governments’ efforts in recent decades means that the UK has one of the strongest legislative frameworks in the world for LGBT people.
“Yet we also know that LGBT people still experience discrimination in their day-to-day lives.
“The Government are committed to eliminating all prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people in this country, wherever its last vestiges remain.”
During the Commonwealth summit next spring the Government would be using the opportunity to discuss LGBT equality as 36 of these 52 countries still criminalise homosexuality, while it has also raised concerns with recent events in Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Chechnya.
Mr Gibb concluded: “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.”