Foreign Office minister condemns violence at Pride events

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Jim Murphy, has condemned the violence at Gay Pride events.

Murphy wrote about his disappointment on his blog last week.

“I was very upset to hear the reports of violence at the Pride parades in Prague, Riga and Sofia in the last few weeks, and also very disappointed that pressure from various sources meant the Pride parade in Moldova scheduled for May did not take place,” he wrote.

“This was in marked contrast to the peaceful Pride held for the first time ever in Delhi on Sunday 29 June.”

Despite the 150 strong police presence at Pride in Sofia, Bulgaria, more than 60 skinheads and rightwing nationalists were arrested and a homophobic mob threw stones and petrol bombs.

Murphy went on to say: “The FCO is committed to promoting equality and ending the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world and we’ve developed a program of skills and information for Embassies and diplomats to help achieve this.”

The FCO advises LGBT people travelling to Pride events to check their dedicated advice for LBGT travellers on their website before they leave. It is part of the ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign.

Last weekend at Pride in Budapest police were forced to use water cannons and tear gas on groups of right-wing demonstrators.

The angry mob tried to attack the peaceful march with petrol bombs, rotten food, faeces, eggs filled with acid or paint and stones.

A week before the Budapest Pride there were two separate arson attacks on gay venues in the capital using petrol bombs. Organisers thanked the police for fully supporting them during the march.

Murphy said: “Although we focus work in countries where homosexuality is criminalised, we also monitor the situation across Europe closely.

“The British Embassies in Warsaw and Riga, for example, were active in helping support and celebrate the diversity, equality and acceptance for all that the Pride events promote. We are also very active in international organisations in promoting our goal of equality for LGBT people in the enjoyment of human rights.”

In May the FCO issued an ‘LGBT Toolkit’ to its 261 embassies, high commissions and other diplomatic posts.

The kit contains information for other countries on the official British policy on gay rights and instructions on how to “provide added value to equality and non discrimination work.”

The violence and discrimination shown towards LGBT people abroad is one of the reasons why the government is under pressure over gay asylum.

Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Secretary of State for Equality, was booed by some sections of a 20,000 strong crowd at Pride London last weekend.

According to human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell she was heckled because of the government’s stance on gay asylum seekers.

“The Labour government is locking up gay asylum seekers, refusing them refugee status and ordering them to be sent back to violently homophobic countries like Algeria, Uganda, Iran, Nigeria, Iraq and Belarus,” said Mr Tatchell.

“Those who are returned are at risk of arrest, imprisonment torture, rape and even murder.”

There are several recent examples of the Home Office refusing asylum to gay people whose home countries criminalise or repress homosexuality.

The latest is the case of JoJo Jako Jacob, 19, who was told he would be safe in his homeland of Syria if he behaves “discreetly.”