Foreign Office Minister Ian McCartney today affirmed Britain’s commitment to the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality.

He announced the development of a new UK strategy on international LGBT rights on the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO)

There are 85 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal, and in nine countries the death penalty is used as a punishment.

Mr McCartney said:

“We have taken a lead in ending discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the UK.

“But elsewhere the picture remains bleak. Every year hundreds of LGBT people are killed simply because of their sexual orientation.

“Some by state execution; many more while the state looks on indifferently.

“Many thousands more live in fear of persecution. Human rights belong to everyone. Sexual orientation cannot be a qualifying factor.”

Mr McCartney announced that the UK government is developing a strategy for promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBT people overseas.

“This year sees the 40th Anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act in the UK, which began the decriminalisation of homosexuality,” he said.

“We can mark this milestone by speaking up for those millions around the world who are branded as criminals simply for being who they are. I look forward to working in partnership with NGOs and other stakeholders to develop our strategy.”

In an addition to efforts on decriminalisation Mr McCartney set out 5 other areas where UK action can make a difference: non-discrimination in the application of human rights; support for LGBT activists and human rights defenders; health and health education; raising LGBT issues at international / multilateral institutions and bilateral engagement with key countries.

IDAHO is being marked with over 80 events across the UK.