Baroness Lindsay Northover writes…DFID’s approach to LGBT rights

It’s been just over a month since I became our International Development Minister, and I’ve enjoyed every moment since. When she held the role, Lynne Featherstone used to say it was the best job in government and I wholeheartedly agree. Shaping and seeing first-hand how UK aid transforms the lives of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalised people is a Lib Dem dream job.

Yesterday I met with Stonewall and the Kaleidoscope Trust to discuss what DFID is doing to address the problems faced by one of the most marginalised groups – LGBT communities in developing countries. Of course I have long drawn on the fantastic Stonewall and Kaleidoscope Trust expertise both for our domestic and international work on equalities, but I was keen to meet them in my new capacity at DFID and learn how we can best work together. Their international work is truly impressive, from educating international development NGOs on LGBT rights and concerns, to engaging global businesses to use their leverage in the fight for equality, to helping to train local campaigners across the world in campaigning and legal techniques.

DFID has been working closely with Stonewall, Kaleidoscope and other international and local campaigners for years, and our approach has rightly been led by local gay campaigners in each country. They have asked that we take a subtle approach, for very obvious reasons, and we’ve respected their wishes. But thanks to Lynne’s previous work on DFID’s approach, we can now see the opportunity to do more. Utilising the networks of both FCO embassies and DFID country offices, we will be actively connecting campaigners across the world – from South America to Africa to Asia – so that they can share their techniques and learn from each other.

This week was another milestone for LGBT equality here at home. As of last Wednesday, 10.12.14 which auspiciously was International Human Rights Day, LGBT couples are able convert civil partnerships into marriage. But we must never forget that for most of the world’s LGBT community the most pressing issue is not marriage or even decriminalisation. Their most pressing concern is simply and heartbreakingly the freedom from violence. This is a fight for human rights and human dignity.

Each country’s path and progress will be different and it will always come down to the bravery and persistence of local campaigners and local leaders. But we can help and we will.

 

* Lindsay Northover was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Development, 2014-15, and is Liberal Democrats Spokesperson on International Development in the House of Lords.

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