Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Hague urged to question Mid-East governments on LGBT rights

William Hague at the US Dept. of StateImage via Wikipedia
By Paul Canning

Update: Hague gave the following response:

Q. @nowishconceived: @WilliamJHague Are you going to address the human rights of LGBT people with this middle-east visit? #askFS

A. @nowishconceived: We object to discrimination against LGBT people in all circumstances & all places and yes, we make this very clear #askFS


Activists have launched a campaign aimed at Foreign Secretary William Hague asking him to raise LGBT rights during his latest visit to the Middle East. Hague just visited Syria, is today in Tunisia and visiting Jordan next.

Our trendy diplomatic leader has asked for questions about foreign policy to be tweeted at him (@WilliamJHague) with a #askFS hashtag which he will answer tomorrow.

Two months ago he had a similar Q&A session but did not answer the few questions about LGBT issue.
Dan Littaeur, Editor of Gay Middle East website, said:
"There are several cases of people accused of alleged homosexual acts due to be executed in Iran, the incident in Bahrain, and hunting down of LGBT people in Iraq, and generally discrimination and persecution of LGBT people throughout the Middle East and North Africa."
The Conservative Party's 'Equalities Manifesto', launched during last year's election promised to "Fight for LGBT rights around the world." It said:
"Unfortunately there are still far too many countries around the world that discriminate against gay and lesbian people. We would use our relationships with other countries to push for unequivocal support for gay rights. For example, shadow Cabinet Minister Nick Herbert will attend the EuroPride rally in Warsaw as part of our commitment to making  the case for gay equality in Eastern Europe." 
"We would also use our influence in international groups like the Commonwealth to put pressure on countries where gay people are persecuted, such as Uganda, and we would change the rules so that gay people fleeing persecution were granted asylum."
Following the election and her appointment as Home Secretary, Theresa May was criticised over her past votes as an MP against LGBT rights.

Responding to questioning on BBC Question Time, she said that she would now vote differently and had "changed her mind" on issues such as lesbian and gay adoption.

However she went further and [my emphasis] said that she wanted to be judged on what the government did rather than said and pointed to the Conservatives Equalities manifesto.

The previous Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, launched the first Foreign Office annual human rights report. However, as we pointed out, in covering LGBT rights it almost exclusively focused on Europe through in a long country round-up it did include criticism of two Mid-East countries with the death penalty for homosexuality, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. But the annual report claimed that Iraqi "official figures do not show a significant overall increase in violence against, or systematic abuse of, the homosexual community by fundamentalists or militia groups". Neither Miliband's or Hague's Foreign Office has offered any criticism of Iraq's government, even when evidence mounted of their direct involvement in the killing of LGBT.

The Foreign Office under both Miliband and Hague also refused to support LGBT Muscovites.

Russian and Western activists blasted European national governments and the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, for denying them permission to host Moscow Pride on the grounds of an embassy. That would have greatly reduced the threat of violence to which activists are subjected while meeting in Russia.

'I was shocked by how these embassies sold human rights for the sake of economic interests,' Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev said.

The Foreign Office has, however, developed a LGBT rights toolkit and the UK has participated in efforts to use EU foreign policy to push for LGBT rights internationally.

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