A gay Conservative MP has called on the British Government to withdraw funding to Uganda if it passes controversial new anti-gay legislation.
Mike Freer, an advisor to the Conservative party on LGBT issues who is the MP for Margaret Thatcher’s old constituency of Finchley and Golders Green, has written to the International Development Secretary to call for action.
In his letter to Justine Greening, Mr Freer writes: “As you will be aware, the Ugandan Government are taking an increasingly strident tone to the issue of homosexuality. New laws are about to be passed which will further persecute the LGBT community in that country.”
He adds: “Indeed, the Speaker of Parliament has described the new legislation as a ‘gift to the people’.
“I do not believe it is appropriate that we continue to use British taxpayers money to aid a regime that not only refuses to respect the rights of minorities, but actively encourages their persecution including physical attacks.
“I look forward to hearing on what plans DfID has to withdraw aid from Uganda.”
The bill had initially proposed the death penalty for certain homosexual acts, but still presents an array of draconian punishments including life imprisonment.
It has now been approved by Uganda’s Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
In its original form, those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV positive, disabled or a “serial offender” – could have been sentenced to death.
Conservative MEP for London Marina Yannakoudakis has made similar calls to Mr Freer, she urged the European Union to drop aid to the country as well saying: “I believe that this is a violation of human rights and that the EU must respond by immediately suspending its aid to Uganda”.
The MEP continued: “In 2010, the EU institutions gave 97 million euros to Uganda. 40% of all EU aid to the country is channelled through general budget support, which means that the money is paid directly to the Ugandan government.”
Last year, the former International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell confirmed that the British government will withhold aid from countries with homophobic countries but denied that it will harm the most poor in those countries.