Labour MP Diane Abbott calls on UK to use ‘soft power’ against homophobia in Africa

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

Labour MP Diane Abbott has accused the UK Government of not doing enough to challenge LGBT rights violations across Africa.

The former shadow public health minister asked Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalites, to do more to support LGBT rights internationally in a Commons exchange this week.

The Hackney MP said: “What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the potential role of the UK’s cultural and sporting assets in advancing human rights, specifically lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights? There is evidence that particularly in Africa and the Caribbean legislation on gay rights is going backwards, not forwards. Surely some soft diplomacy on the issue could help.”

Mrs Miller replied: “The hon. Lady raises an extremely important point. We want to increase participation in cultural and sporting activities for all, and that is at the heart of the work that the Arts Council and Sport England are doing. She is also right to say that LGBT rights in particular have a natural partnership with culture, and I have been examining that, particularly in this, the year of culture that we have with Russia.”

However, Diane Abbott was not impressed with the response.

“I think Maria Miller’s answer was unsatisfactory,” she told on Friday.

“Whilst LGBT rights are moving forward in this country the issue is going backwards in Africa and the Caribbean.

“Truly horrific anti-LGBT legislation is finding its way on to the statue book all over Africa.

“LGBT rights are human rights and the British Government should be using diplomacy but also the ‘soft’ political power of culture and sport to lead the fight against hate crime and anti-LGBT bigotry internationally.”

In December, Ms Abbott condemned Uganda’s Parliament for passing a draconian anti-gay bill, telling it was “dreadful news” especially just after Nelson Mandela’s death.

The former South African president was a leading figure when it came to standing up for LGBT rights.

Princess Anne and Maria Miller will lead the UK’s delegation and visit athletes in Sochi during the Winter Olympics.

Helen Grant, the second most senior minister responsible for Sport at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and a junior Equalities minister, will be flying out to visit Team GB during the Games too.

Mrs Grant yesterday rejected criticism by Labour MP Chris Bryant that the UK should have included openly gay public figures in its Olympic delegation.