One of the themes that seemed to emerge at the two coalition partner conferences was that both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives saw an ‘internationalisation’ of homosexual rights to be a priority. These essentially means that the British Government should not be neutral where governments torture, kill or criminalise their citizens because they believe them to be homosexual. The latest idea, according to the Daily Mail, is that the British Government will withhold aid to developing countries if they persecute homosexuals – and points to the announcement that Malawi has had aid cut by £19 after two men have been sentenced to hard labour. The Daily Mail line seems to be ‘f you’re going to be tough on governments that oppress gay men and women, what about regimes that do xyz’. It’s a position I have some sympathy with but aid is often used as a way of keeping regimes ‘on side’. Take Pakistan, not a gay friendly nation and one that is currently battling with corruption and terrorism. It’s an imperfect state and a good argument could be made to cut aid. However, a Pakistan without aid is likely to become more radicalised and less supportive, presenting a danger to the region (with a nuclear conflict with India a real possibility) and a potential exporter of terrorism globally (let’s not forget where Bin Laden was found).
The consequence of this real politic philosophy is that I should support regimes financially that frankly, would like to see me dead. In truth, I don’t think this in area that can be ‘politically pure’, and sexual rights can not be divorced from a wider international political agenda. Yes, the British government should condemn regimes that oppress people because of their sexuality, but stop aid, I don’t think so. I suspect this fudge will actually be the end result despite the headlines but it’s a position that is likely to satisfy few.