Kaleidoscope Trust: Equal marriage could make ‘life worse’ for gay people in developing countries

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LGBT rights charity the Kaleidoscope Trust has warned that gay rights in the West, including the recent Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, could lead to an erosion of LGBT freedoms in the developing world.

Alistair Stewart, the Kaleidoscope Trust assistant director said: “As the champagne corks are popped in London and Paris, and we notch up yet more victories for LGBT people in the West, countless setbacks, reversals and outrages occur elsewhere.”

He added: “The achievement of equal marriage, parenting and adoption rights and full legal protection can actually impede the struggles in other parts of the world where the battles for LGBT people are about the most fundamental of human rights.

“76 countries continue to criminalise ‘homosexual conduct’, punishable with prison sentences and hard labour. In five countries the death penalty still applies.”

Mr Stewart also noted that on Monday, a prominent gay rights and human rights leader in Cameroon was burned with an iron and killed in an alleged anti-gay attack.

The campaigner’s killing follows several attacks on the offices of human rights workers in the country, including those working for equal rights for gay people.

Labour MP Diane Abbott also brought up the murder during Tuesday’s debate on the equal marriage bill, in which she said: “Does my right Honourable Friend agree that this debate on this group of amendments this evening will encourage people all over the world to follow the progressive attitudes we are talking about?”

Mr Stewart said: “Of course, no one is saying that battles for same-sex marriage shouldn’t be fought in the West and victories celebrated.

“It would be nice though, that as we toast the successes at home, we don’t forget that the struggle for equality, rights and dignity continues elsewhere, and that it is not a struggle that is apart from our own.

“The battle for equal rights in the global North is woven, intimately, with the battles for equality and dignity further afield. We’d do well to remember that and that, in many places, there is far more at stake than embossed invitations or a gift register at John Lewis.”

Mr Stewart also warned that opponents of gay rights in the US are increasingly moving their resources to the developing world.

“American Evangelical Churches are abandoning the fight against equality at home, in favour of supporting homophobic laws abroad,” he said.

“Why fight a losing battle against social liberalism in America or Europe, where you are increasingly ignored and ridiculed, when in Uganda, Belize or Nigeria you are welcomed with open arms.

“In this perverse way the successes of the LGBT movement in the North, and in particular in the United States, have acted to worsen conditions in the South.”

He added: “The fight in much of the world isn’t for partnership or parenting rights, but for the right to live lives free from violence, harassment, arrest or detention.

“Victories for same-sex marriage make this battle for basic rights even more difficult, muddying the water between northern and southern demands.”

The Kaleidoscope Trust is a UK based charity working to uphold the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people internationally. It boasts the Tory MP and House of Commons Speaker John Bercow as its president.

In May, the charity also called on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to veto a bill which further criminalises same-sex marriages in Nigeria with potential prison terms of up to 14 years.