10/10/2011 13:21 BST | Updated 10/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Britain Could Cut Aid To Governments That Persecute Gays

Britain could cut the aid to the governments of countries that persecute homosexuals, the Department for International Development has suggested.

The department said on Monday it had raised objections to developments in Uganda and Ghana, months after it suspended £19m of general budget support to Malawi.

British Development minister Stephen O'Brien challenged the president of Malawi in January on his moves to criminalise female same-sex relationships.

Malawi received £96 million in aid from Britain in 2010.

In May, Malawi jailed Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, for holding an engagement ceremony.

The judge sentenced the pair to 14 years in prison.

"I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example," he said.

"We are sitting here to represent the Malawi society, which I do not believe is ready at this point in time to see its sons getting married to other sons or conducting engagement ceremonies."

DfID has been critical of Uganda's record on gay rights. A private member's bill that would make homosexuality punishable by death nearly passed Uganda's Parliament earlier this year, it would have also criminalised heterosexuals for failing to report someone for being gay.

Andrew Mitchell is said to have raised his "serious objections" to the bill with President Museveni three weeks ago.

Uganda received £116m in aid from Britain in 2010.

DfiD has also said homophobic remarks from a regional government in Ghana prompted "a swift reaction" from British ministers.

In July Ghana’s Western region minister, Paul Evans Aidoo MP, ordered the immediate arrest of all homosexuals in the region.

“All efforts are being made to get rid of these people in the society,” he said.

The department said O'Brien made it clear to both the president and opposition leaders that the remarks were "unacceptable" and could undermine UK domestic support for aid to Ghana.

The government has pledged to meet its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product on overseas aid, a promise unpopular with many Conservative backbenchers given budget cuts at home.

Sam Dick, Head of Policy at Stonewall, a gay rights group, said: "Gay taxpayers contribute £40 billion a year to the public purse, including international aid. It is not unreasonable that these questions are asked at the point of awarding aid."