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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Inequality Bill

Earlier this week, Peter Tatchell spoke out against the UK government’s new Equality Bill in a news release:

“The Equality Bill should be renamed the Inequality Bill. While other vulnerable groups are protected against harassment, protection is denied to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. We are explicitly excluded from the anti-harassment clauses of the Bill,” said Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage!.

“This legislation was supposed to harmonise and standardise all equality laws, so that everyone has the same rights and protection. Sadly, it enshrines in law discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The leading gay lobby group, Stonewall, supports this discriminatory legislation, claiming that homophobic and transphobic harassment are not significant problems and can be dealt with under existing legislation.

“Stonewall boasts that its stated purpose is to ‘promote equality’, yet it is ignoring the unequal treatment of LGBT people in this Bill. This collusion with discrimination reinforces the fear that Stonewall has compromised its political independence and is too closely identified with the Labour government.

“At the same time that Stonewall is laudably campaigning against homophobic bullying in schools, it is supporting legislation that effectively allows school authorities to harass LGBT pupils. Schools are exempt.

“The so-called Equality Bill denies protection against homophobic harassment by school authorities, by the owners and managers of properties and by the providers of services. Such harassment is outlawed on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, race and sex but not on the grounds of sexual orientation.

“This omission gives a green light to homophobes. They won’t face sanctions for homophobic harassment under this proposed law.

“Exempting schools from the anti-harassment clauses is particularly shocking and unforgiveable, given the widespread bullying of lesbian and gay pupils. We urge the government to amend the Equality Bill immediately.

“The legislation has an anti-transgender bias. Protection against harassment is restricted to those people who are proposing or have undergone gender reassignment, and transgender pupils in schools are excluded from the Bill’s anti-harassment protections.

“The definition of transgender people is too narrow. Those who are not yet planning or have not yet undergone gender reassignment are not protected by the Equality Bill. The legislation should be amended to give protection on the wider grounds of gender identity, not the narrow grounds of gender reassignment.

“The Equality Bill has the overall good intention of harmonising and equalising all equality laws, to create a level legislative playing field. But this positive goal is undermined by the government's recent announcement that it plans to exempt faith schools from its action plan to tackle homophobic prejudice and bullying. They will be allowed to teach sex and relationship education in accordance with their own religious values, which often include the idea that gay people are sinners, unnatural, immoral and inferior human beings.

“Such values reinforce homophobia, which can lead to homophobic harassment, discrimination and violence,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

The discriminatory clauses of the Equality Bill:

Clause 28 – Provision of services – Ban on discrimination, harassment and victimisation

Clauses 32, 33 and 34 – Disposal and management of premises by landlords and freeholders etc. – Ban on harassment

Clause 82 – Schools – Ban on harassment

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