Handbook on defending gay rights

Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen yesterday sent the new handbook Mensenrechten en Seksuele Oriëntatie (‘Human Rights and Sexual Orientation’) to the House of Representatives. The guide, which gives diplomats specific tips on working more effectively to defend gay rights, will be distributed to all Dutch embassies and consulates.

The handbook has been drawn up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in close consultation with civil society organisations like the Dutch gay rights group COC, the International Lesbian and Gay Association, and the Schorer institute for homosexuality, health and well-being. The guide is badly needed, said Mr Verhagen: ‘There is a taboo in many countries on rights for transsexuals and other sexual minorities. This booklet will encourage our embassies to pay attention to the rights of this vulnerable group.’

Dutch missions abroad have a major role to play in promoting acceptance, human rights and equal opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Although the subject is a very sensitive one in many countries, many embassies have tackled it vigorously.

There are many parts of the world where LGBT people are denied equal rights. In many countries homosexuality is a criminal offence; in seven countries it even carries the death penalty. In recent years Minister Verhagen has joined with the French Secretary of State for Human Rights to place the discussion of LGBT rights prominently on the agenda of the United Nations. Their call to end the criminalisation of homosexuality has been endorsed by 68 states.