UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson challenges countries where gay people face hate

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The UK’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson has challenged countries around the world where gay people are still being discriminated against.

The government minister made the comments at an event for LGBT equality charity Stonewall earlier this week.

“Britain was one of the first countries to express concern about the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya,” he said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Meets With United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Meets With United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

“It is absolutely disgraceful what has been going on there.

Petition: Stop the persecution of gay men in Chechnya

“In April, I co-signed a letter to the Russian Foreign Minister urging his government to investigate these incidents and ensure the safety of the journalists who brought them to light.”

Mr Johnson continued: “And of course when we do this sort of thing, when we engage in this kind of diplomacy, in whatever form it is, there are some people who say that we are interfering or sticking our noses in the domestic affairs of other countries.

“And I accept that there are times when it is better to work discreetly and to raise our concerns in private rather than being openly confrontational.

“But to all our friends and partners in other countries around the world, who don’t yet take our view, I would just humbly and sincerely make a couple of points.

“The first is that we have changed in this country too. In living memory we have changed. And this country didn’t have a sparkling record on this subject even just a few decades ago.”

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Indeed, many countries where it is illegal to be gay originally inherited these laws from the British Empire which they were once part of.

In his speech, Mr Johnson also underlined his own contribution to LGBT rights in his current office despite the potential short-term diplomatic ramifications.

Mr Johnson said: “I would just like to say that the first thing I did – the first instruction I issued – as Foreign Secretary, on I think July 13 last year when I took up this job was to say that the rainbow flag should be flown from every one of our embassies, legations and consulates around the world.

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“And they said – some of the FCO [Foreign & Commonwealth Office] officials – that in some countries that might prove controversial and that it might even cause offence in some places, and I said that that might be necessary in the short term.”

Also at the event, Mr Johnson spoke about the less-progressive past of the UK government in this regard.

The Foreign Office would not hire gay men and women as recently as 1991.

It was claimed by the government that gay officials were somehow more susceptible to being blackmailed by foreign intelligence services.

Historians have since countered this claim with the argument that it was in fact the culture of the Foreign Office itself that prevented the recruitment of gay and lesbian staff.

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