The Netherlands is to step up pressure for gay rights in countries

where it has strong aid ties.

Dutch embassy officials in the 36 countries where the Netherlands

donates much of its aid will draw up an inventory of gay, lesbian and bisexual rights legislation, according to development cooperation minister Bert Koenders.

In at least 18 of the countries, homosexuality is criminalised and gay people face fines, public beatings and even execution.

Dutch embassies in those countries will urge governments to scrap

anti-gay legislation.

Holland was the first country to allow same-sex marriage in 2001.

The Dutch public widely supports equal rights for lesbian, gay and

bisexual people.