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Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Minister takes 'pink diplomacy' to anti-gay nations From The Sunday Times
August 16, 2009
The gay Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant is championing a controversial drive to fund equal-rights activists in homophobic regimes. British missions in countries such as Jamaica, where homosexual acts are punishable by long jail terms, and Nigeria, where they can lead to the death penalty, are being encouraged to “support progress” by financing gay pride marches and legal challenges from local campaigners.
As well as targeting Commonwealth countries, “pink diplomacy” will extend to eastern Europe, where gays have suffered brutal attacks from far-right groups. Opportunities to tackle discrimination in ultra-conservative nations, such as Iran, are also being considered - cautiously. The move risks a backlash from countries where support for homosexuality runs contrary to state teaching and religious beliefs.
The fact that the initiative is being promoted by Bryant, a former Anglican curate, could exacerbate things. Bryant, 47, said: “It is completely up to staff in our embassies and consulates around the world to decide the most appropriate and effective way of making our case but we do encourage this important work because British values are based on fair play and the protection of the individual’s freedom. We are not naive about this work. In some places oppressive regimes make it some of the toughest work we do.” Bryant thanked Robin Barnett, the ambassador to Bucharest, for attending a gay pride march in the Romanian capital that had previously been targeted by thugs hurling fireworks and stones. A 2008 study by the European Commission ranked Romania as the most homophobic in the European Union. Officials confirmed this weekend that the new policy included financial backing. A Foreign Office briefing document sent to British missions, said Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Nigeria and Uzbekistan were “countries of particular concern”.