On International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, PinkNews.co.uk spoke to the Deputy Head of the British Mission in Croatia about the importance of LGBT rights in the Foreign Office’s work abroad.
To mark IDAHOT, the UK Foreign Office funded a trip to the Croatia for PinkNews founder Benjamin Cohen. He will be spending the day in the capital, Zagreb, speaking to the LGBT community there about their country’s upcoming transition to the EU.
While there he spoke to the Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy, Nicole Davison.
She told PinkNews.co.uk that for Croatia, which is set to become the 28th member of the EU on 1 July, LGBT rights were a standard to be measured by.
“It’s one of the things that a country is judged against, how minorities and how the LGBT community are respected,” she said. “That doesn’t just extend to the LGBT community, it’s also to disabilities and ethnic minorities. How a country treats their smaller groupings is very important.
“Actually, the EU has picked out the work that Croatia has already done on LGBT issues, and what it still needs to do before it’s a fully functioning, fully recognised member of the EU. It’s important to keep on top of that.”
Davison said that the Foreign Office’s focus on LGBT rights goes beyond working with UK nationals, with the Embassy’s projects aiming to improve life for Croatia’s LGBT community.
“For the Foreign Office, LGBT work is extremely important,” she said. “That differs in the various countries that we work with. Obviously ones in Africa are very different to what we’re dealing with here. What we try and deal with here is sort of an emerging society that’s kind of getting there, but still has some work to do.
“We support a number of LGBT projects – for example, we’re currently working with the ombudsman’s office on doing workshops for judiciary with LGBT hate crimes, and we’ve done projects with the police.
“We do support work as well, which is less financial and less practical, where we’ll go to gay Pride, we’ll speak, we’ll make statements… We worked very closely with the organisers to make sure they felt they had support, both from us and other EU countries.”
As for her own experience of living and working in Croatia, Davison said she may be the only LGBT person in the Embassy, but she hasn’t faced any hardship because of it.
“I’m here with my partner and we lead a very comfortable life. We’ve never had any difficulties,” she said. “There are certain countries I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to, but this wasn’t one of them. It’s perfectly easy to live our lives normally here.”
The senior Conservative MP said: “The protection and promotion of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is an integral part of the government’s wider international human rights agenda. Unfortunately, this position is not universally shared.”