Hide me!

Scotland loses European top spot for LGBTI equality

Scotland loses European top spot for LGBTI equality

Scotland has been overtaken by Malta in the European league table of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) equality laws and policies. Scotland is now in second place, with a score of 82%, with Malta on 88%. Malta has risen to first place after introducing new laws protecting the rights of trans and intersex people.

The table is published today as part of Rainbow Europe 2017, an annual review by European LGBTI equality organisation ILGA-Europe. Its publication marks International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT – May 17th).

The UK as a whole is now in fourth place on 76%, behind Norway on 78%. The UK composite score is pulled down by the lack of equal marriage law in Northern Ireland.

Tim Hopkins, Director of national Scottish LGBTI equality charity the Equality Network, said, “We congratulate the government and equality activists in Malta for introducing the best laws in Europe to protect trans and intersex people. The Scottish Government have promised to bring Scotland’s laws in this area up to international best practice during the 2016-21 parliamentary session, and to consult on this later this year. Those changes would put Scotland back in contention for the top spot.”

He continued, “The UK as a whole also falls short of best practice in two reserved areas: equality law and asylum. During this Westminster election campaign, we are calling on all parties to commit to amend equality law to fully protect trans and intersex people, and to ensure that people fleeing persecution because they are LGBTI can find asylum here.”

Silvan Agius, Director on Human Rights in the Government of Malta, said, “I am delighted to see that Malta’s efforts in this area continue to inspire others to move forward towards LGBTIQ equality. In essence our story is based on two main foundations – a strong LGBTIQ movement and political will on the part of government.”

The full league table of 49 European countries can be found here (note that the table shows the UK as a whole, not Scotland, but ILGA-Europe have separately rated Scotland at 82%).

More details of the changes needed to devolved gender recognition law, to bring Scotland up to international best practice for trans people, can be found here.

More details of the Equality Network’s five-point election pledge for Westminster candidates can be found here.

Urgent Action: Chechnya

On 1st April, the Russian independent daily newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, reported that hundreds of men, believed by the Chechen state to be gay, have been abducted in recent days, as part of a coordinated campaign of state-sponsored homophobia.

Information circulating widely in the British general and LGBT media report that the men have been tortured, forced to disclose other LGBT individuals known to them, their families extorted, and in three cases, verified by Novaya Gazeta, men have been murdered by their captors. Other sources say that as many as twenty men may have been killed.

We are in contact with the Russian LGBT Network, who have confirmed this information. They are offering support to men who have fled the region, and have created a hotline to help those who may be looking for safety.

Svetlana Zakharova, from the Russian LGBT Network, reported to the media: “Gay people have been detained and rounded up and we are working to evacuate people from the camps and some have now left the region.

“Those who have escaped said they are detained in the same room and people are kept altogether, around 30 or 40. They are tortured with electric currents and heavily beaten, sometimes to death.”

And in an email to the Equality Network said, “We believe that all kinds of international pressure is a good thing. People are being killed and there is still no investigation.”

Amnesty International report that reactions from Chechen officials to this information have varied from denial (for instance, by Alvi Karimov, the Press Secretary of the Head of the Chechen Republic) to dismissing it as joke.

On 3rd April, the press secretary of the Russian Presidential Administration, Dimitry Peskov, announced that the Russian Ministry of Interior were “checking information about the alleged persecution of men of non-traditional orientation”.

These reports are not only deeply disturbing and concerning, but have rightly led to calls from the LGBTI community in Scotland and elsewhere for international condemnation and pressure to be put on the Chechen and Russian authorities.

The Equality Network supports Amnesty International’s calls for people to contact the Russian and Chechen authorities:

• Urging them to carry out prompt, effective and thorough investigations into the reports of abductions and killings of men believed to be gay in Chechnya, and to ensure that anyone found guilty or complicit in such crimes will be brought to justice in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation;

• Urging them to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of any individual who may be at risk in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation and to condemn in the strongest terms possible any discriminatory comments made by officials;

• Reminding the Russian and Chechen authorities that they have an international human rights obligation to prohibit discrimination and to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, the most invidious form of discrimination.

We urge you to sign the petition at: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/…/stop-abducting-and-killing-gay…

We are also calling for the Scottish cities and towns that are twinned with Russian counterparts to make urgent representations to their twins, urging action from the Russian Government. If you live in Glasgow, Perth or Coatbridge please take action now – you can find out how here.

We have written to Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs to ask that the Scottish Government make urgent representations to the UK Government, asking them to use available diplomatic channels to pressure the Chechen authorities to end their activities against men thought to be gay.

We also asked the Scottish Government to release a statement condemning these actions of the Chechen authorities. This is something that the Russian LGBT Network have asked other governments to do. You can read the letter here.

Should you wish to support the work of the Russian LGBT Network you can donate on their facebook page.

Urgent Action: Chechnya – Contact your councillor

Do you live in Glasgow, Perth or Coatbridge?

Glasgow is twinned with the city of Rostov-on-Don, Perth with Pskov and Coatbridge with Gatchina, all towns and cities in Russia.

Through twinning partnerships towns and cities can share knowledge and participate in cultural changes. With the current ongoing situation in Chechnya these links could prove a way to influence the government in Russia to halt the state-sponsored homophobia in Chechnya. With the situation reported by the Russian LGBT Network so grave all channels of communications we have could play thier part in influencing activities in Chechnya.

We’re asking you to contact your councillor. Tell them about the situation in Chechnya and urge them to send a message to their twin council asking them to pressure the Russian Government and Chechen authorities. Pressure from within Russia could have far more impact than international pressure which has so far been resisted.

If you live in Glasgow you can find out who your councillor is and how to contact them here.

If you live in Perth/Perth & Kinross you can find out who your councillor is and how to contact them here.

If you live in Coatbridge/North Lanarkshire you can find out who your councillor is and how to contact them here.

Please be polite, you can find out more on the situation in Chechnya and what we are calling for here.

 

 

 

 

 

Equality Network unveils new brand

We launched our new brand identity at our Annual General Meeting in Edinburgh last night, 28 February 2017.

New Equality Network identity

The Equality Network is a national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights charity for Scotland. The launch of the new brand coincides with the 20th anniversary of the charity, which we will be marking throughout this year.

The Equality Network’s role is to achieve real and lasting change for LGBTI equality in Scotland, by working together with diverse LGBTI people across Scotland. At the core of our identity is therefore a new iconic mark. It is a symbol that represents thousands of voices—being heard, being included, and demanding change. It’s the voice of community, change and equality.

The voice icon is an integral part of the brand, appearing in all our materials and campaigns. The new Equality Network logo retains a human element, but its clear and simple design is a move away from the previous complex logo.

Tim Hopkins, Director of Equality Network, said: “We are pleased to unveil the new Equality Network brand identity. Our new brand reflects our position as a go-to organisation for LGBTI equality in Scotland—active, confident and inclusive.”

Tim continued: “We have chosen a new tagline that clearly sums up what the Equality Network does: “Creating change together“. We are all about getting real change for LGBTI equality in Scotland, by empowering LGBTI people across Scotland and working in partnership.”

The Equality Network established the Scottish Trans Alliance project ten years ago. A new identity has been created in parallel with the new Equality Network brand, to help promote the project’s position as Scotland’s centre of expertise on trans issues.

The new Equality Network brand identity has been developed by Glasgow-based Haiwyre Design Ltd. The new brand will be rolled out in a phased approach over the next few months. As part of the brand project, led by our Communications Officer Jenni Nuppula, we have already started work on re-developing our two websites. We expect to launch the brand new websites later this year.

For more information, visit the Equality Network brand page and the Scottish Trans website or contact our Communications Officer Jenni Nuppula on press@equality-network.org or 0131 467 6039.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2017!

There is a lot which is uncertain about the political future just now, with Brexit, Trump, and far-right parties challenging in elections this year in several European countries. But at the same time popular support for LGBTI equality is at its highest ever level in Scotland, and there is a widespread support for equality and diversity in the UK, Europe, the US and elsewhere.

Here are some of our resolutions for the year ahead …

A high priority for us this year is the equal recognition campaign to overhaul gender recognition legislation, including legal recognition for people with non-binary gender identities. The Scottish Government have promised to consult publicly on this in 2017.

The Scottish Government have also promised a bill this year to formally pardon people convicted of the old discriminatory gay sex offences that are no longer crimes, and we will work to ensure that is as effective as possible. And the Scottish Government are due to say soon whether or when they will introduce equal civil partnership, open to couples regardless of gender – something we will continue to press for.

In addition to seeking changes to the law, we will, as always, prioritise a wide range of key equality issues. These include appropriate health service provision for LGBTI people, combatting hate crime and ensuring an effective justice system, LGBTI-inclusive education and other public services, LGBTI inclusion in sport, and supporting LGBTI community groups around the country.

We’ll continue to work to support and promote positive public opinion about LGBTI people, and about equality more generally.

We’ll also support action to minimise any negative effects on equality and rights resulting from Brexit.

A priority will be to work towards all of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex communities getting greater equality, including people all around the country, and LGBTI people with intersectional identities.

As always, our approach will be to work in partnership with our fantastic colleagues in other LGBTI and equality organisations, in Scotland, the UK, Europe and elsewhere.

And of course, progress on these things would not be possible without all the LGBTI people who stand up for equality right across Scotland. All of our work is based on priorities identified through open engagement involving thousands of diverse LGBTI people, and it is your lobbying, campaigning and standing up for equality that makes change happen!

Thank you!

Latest Equality Network consultation responses now online

A key part of what we do is working to influence and improve public policy on LGBTI equality in Scotland. Equality Network’s most recent responses to Scottish Government consultations can now be found in our new Consultation Responses page.

You can visit the page here: http://www.equality-network.org/our-work/policyandcampaign/consultation-responses/

If you would like to find out more please contact Hannah Pearson, our Policy Coordinator, on hannah@equality-network.org

How A Deeply Personal Act Changed a Country

For some of us it was a big thing, we worried about it, planned it for months, toiled over how we would do it and how it would impact our lives. For most today it’s a positive experience, for many it’s a non-event and for too many it’s a negative experience that can have far reaching long term consequences to relationships.

I did it yesterday in the gym, it wasn’t the first time I’ve done it and it won’t be the last. I have to do it when I change job, meet new friends or when accessing healthcare or some services.

I come out. I tell people I am gay.

It’s not an experience unique to me, it’s something that every LGBTI person has done, or thought about doing. Telling others about out sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics.

As today is National Coming Out Day, lots of people are sharing their stories of coming out. Whether a positive story or a negative one, the deeply personal act of revealing to people something that may make us seem different, its one which has changed a nation.

Last Friday the results of the 2015 Scottish Social attitudes survey1 were published. The survey is commissioned by the Scottish Government and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, and carried out by the Scottish Centre for Social Research. What it revealed was fascinating.

The proportion of people in Scotland who think that same-sex sexual relationships are always or mostly wrong fell to 18%, from 48% in 2000. The figure is the lowest it has ever been, a fall of 30% in 15 years.

The proportion of people in Scotland who would be unhappy at a close relative forming a long-term same-sex relationship fell from 30% in 2010, to 16% in 2015, a 14% drop in just five years. With the most significant figure being that only 3% of people under age 30 would now be unhappy about this.

Attitudes towards transgender people have also improved significantly in the past five years. The proportion of people in Scotland who would be unhappy if a close relative formed a long-term relationship with someone who has undergone gender reassignment has dropped from 49% in 2010, to 32% in 2015, a 17% drop. Again, significantly, only 13% of people under age 30 would be unhappy about this. The proportion of people in Scotland who felt that a transgender person would not be suitable to be a primary school teacher fell from 31% in 2010 to 20% in 2015 an 11% drop.

It’s very clear that public opinion in Scotland on LGBTI issues have changed rapidly, recognising that much more work still has to be done, especially on transgender and intersex issues (which are not covered in the Social Attitudes Survey).

I’m often asked what it was I thought that has made such changes in attitudes possible, I have little doubt it was people coming out. Only 15% of people in Scotland now say they don’t know someone who is gay or lesbian, down from 32% in 2002. We know through research that people who know an LGBTI person are less likely to hold discriminatory views about LGBTI people so with 41% now saying they have a gay or lesbian friend and 21% a gay or lesbian family member, these personal acts of coming out are having a big effect.

en-stats_72rgb_5

The pioneers of our movement in the Scottish Minorities Group came out when LGBTI people had no rights, bar the right to a solicitor when they were legally arrested. They began Scotland’s progressive journey. As homosexuality was decriminalised more were able to come out, and this continued as equal treatment under the law was slowly won. As more came out, the easier it became, the easier it became the more people were able to come out.

Harvey Milk once said, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” He understood then the importance of coming out and its effects, 38 years after his death we still have much to do to ensure that everyone who wants to come out can do so with the support of their friends and family and that we consign LGBTI discrimination to the history books.

Scotland is changing for the better, and that is down to the personal acts of every LGBTI person in our country.

1 http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/09/3916

By Scott Cuthbertson

Equality Network welcomes big change in public attitudes

The proportion of people in Scotland who think that same-sex sexual relationships are always or mostly wrong has fallen to 18%, its lowest ever. That’s according to the 2015 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, published today by the Scottish Government. Public opinion on this has changed very rapidly. Previous Scottish Social Attitudes Surveys found that in 2000, 48% thought that same-sex relationships were always or mostly wrong. By 2005 that had dropped to 40%, and in 2010 the figure was 27%.

The proportion of Scots who would be unhappy at a close relative forming a long-term same-sex relationship has also fallen fast, from 30% in 2010, to only 16% now. Attitudes vary a great deal by age – only 3% of people under 30 would now be unhappy about this.

Hannah Pearson, Policy Coordinator at the Equality Network, said, “We very much welcome the continued increase in the majority of people in Scotland who respect and value equally their lesbian, gay and bisexual neighbours. Attitudes have changed very fast, and we think that’s in part due to the leadership shown by successive Scottish governments in promoting equality in the law. It’s also because a lot more people have come out. People are less likely to hold discriminatory attitudes if they have a friend or family member they know is lesbian, gay or bisexual. Only 15% of Scots now say they don’t know anyone lesbian or gay.

Attitudes towards transgender people have also improved significantly in the past five years, but still have much further to go. The proportion of Scots who would be unhappy if a close relative formed a long-term relationship with someone who has undergone gender reassignment has dropped from 49% in 2010, to 32% in 2015.

On this question, transgender people are still the group facing the most negative attitudes. More positively, only 13% of people under 30 would be unhappy about this. The proportion of Scots who felt that a transgender person would not be suitable to be a primary school teacher fell from 31% in 2010 to 20% in 2015.

James Morton, manager of the Scottish Transgender Alliance, said, “We are glad to see confirmation that prejudice towards trans people has fallen. Trans people remain the social group which the largest minority of people in the Social Attitudes Survey would be unhappy to see join their family. However, it is heartening to see much more positive views amongst younger people, and we look forward to the change in attitudes towards trans people continuing.

Tim Hopkins, Equality Network Director, added: “In the Scottish LGBT Equality Report which we published last year, LGBT people identified negative social attitudes as a top issue. Although, as the Social Attitudes Survey shows, views towards the LGBTI community in Scotland have greatly improved over the years, many LGBTI people still face practical discrimination, and hate crime perpetrated by a small minority. More needs to be done to combat this”.

 

Scottish Rugby signs up to Scottish LGBT Sports Charter

09/08/16 - 16080907 - SCOTTISH RUGBY UNION BT MURRAYFIELD - EDINBURGH Scottish Rugby signing the Equality Network's LGBT Charter Munro Stevenson (Publicity/Media rep. -Glasgow Alphas) Neil Fox (captain of Caledonian Thebans) Scott Cuthbertson (Equality Network) Boris Pichotka (secretary of Glasgow Alphas) Dominic Mckay Pete Young (SRU Outreach and equality manager ).

Scottish Rugby today signed up as the newest signatory to the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter at the home of rugby in Scotland, BT Murrayfield, we’re delighted to welcome them as a signatory.

We launched the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter, which includes a set of five principles which aims remove the barriers to sport for LGBT people and tackle discrimination in sport, last year as a tool for governing bodies of sport, clubs and sports providers.

Signing the charter on behalf of Scottish Rugby, Dominic McKay, Chief Operating Officer said “Scottish Rugby has had a long standing commitment to ensure access to our sport is open to everyone regardless of age, background, education or sexuality. We take a proactive approach to providing training and development for LGBT teams and encouraging the growth of rugby among the gay community. This is best demonstrated by our support of the bid to bring the prestigious Bingham Cup to Scotland and BT Murrayfield next year. Signing the Sport Charter therefore is a natural next step for us.”

Scottish Rugby is already a leader in LGBT inclusion in sport, with the governing body supporting the development of LGBTI clubs and development coaches having attended LGBTI training in the Borders. Scottish Rugby is also supporting a bid to bring the 2018 Bingham Cup, a biennial international gay rugby union tournament, to Scotland.

Scott Cuthbertson our Development Manager, said: “We welcome Scottish Rugby as a signatory to the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter. We know through our research that LGBT people in Scotland still face significant barriers to their full inclusion in sport. This charter is an important step to addressing those barriers, setting out positive steps that organisations can take to become more LGBT inclusive.

“Rugby, and its role models, have a huge impact in Scotland, today we’re sending the message loud and clear, Rugby is a welcoming sport regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity”

Attending the signing were Neil Fox, Captain of the Caledonian Thebans and Boris Pichotka & Munro Stevenson of the Glasgow Alphas, Scotland’s LGBTI inclusive rugby clubs based in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Alphas were set up in October last year and the Caledonian Thebans have recently returned from Nashville after winning the Hoagland Cup. The Thebans are currently biding to host the Bingham Cup in Edinburgh.

While there are no openly LGBT players in the professional rugby in Scotland there are signs of progress across the UK. Keegan Hirst (Rugby League) and Sam Stanley both came out in 2015 following in the footsteps of retired welsh international Gareth Thomas.

You can find out more about our work on sport and those who have signed the Scottish LGBT Sport Charter on our sport pages here.

Update about the EU referendum

EU and Scottish flags

On Thursday 23rd June 2016, people in Scotland voted, by a majority of 62% to 38%, to remain part of the European Union. Every one of the 32 council areas in Scotland voted to stay in the EU. However, the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon has since said that the Scottish Government will do all it can to protect Scotland’s place within the EU, including the possibility of a second independence referendum for Scotland.

For a long time now, there will be uncertainty about the UK’s international relationships and future, and about the future of Scotland within the UK.

Two of the immediate concerns for LGBTI people are these:

Firstly, the Equality Network works for equality and human rights for all LGBTI people in Scotland – people of all nationalities and ethnicities. Our staff, volunteers and members include citizens of different EU and non-EU countries, and we would be much the poorer without that diversity. We will continue to strongly support Scotland’s openness and welcome for diverse people.

We are very concerned about the reports of an increase in racist abuse and attacks since Friday, apparently motivated by the referendum result. The reports we have seen so far have been from England, but this may be happening in Scotland also. We urge anyone who experiences or witnesses any kind of hate incident to report it to Police Scotland, by phoning 101 (or 999 if someone is in danger), or online here:
http://www.scotland.police.uk/contact-us/hate-crime-and-third-party-reporting/

We very much value our partnerships with LGBTI people and organisations in the rest of Europe, including Europe-wide organisations like ILGA-Europe and TGEU, and we will continue to work to strengthen those partnerships.

Secondly, concern has been expressed (for example in Saturday’s Daily Record) about the future of our equality and human rights legal protections. Britain’s gender reassignment and sexual orientation equality laws were originally introduced as requirements of EU law. But they are part of British law – the Equality Act 2010 – and are now stronger than the EU requires. Most of the Equality Act is not devolved to Scotland.

In our view, the Equality Act needs to be strengthened and improved, but there is a danger that the UK Government might weaken it. For the past 18 years, the Equality Network has called for equality law to be fully devolved to Scotland, because we think we would then have better and more appropriate law. We will continue to call for that, and to call for improvements to the Equality Act to fully cover gender identity, sex characteristics, and intersectional discrimination, and we will of course oppose any weakening of the law.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is not a treaty of the EU. It is a treaty of the Council of Europe – an older and larger organisation of 47 European countries from Iceland to Russia, including many non-EU countries. There is a serious risk that the UK Government will attempt to remove the UK from the Convention, and we will continue to strongly oppose that.

The protections of the ECHR are built into the UK Human Rights Act, and also into the Scotland Act, which is the constitution of the Scottish Government and Parliament. If the Human Rights Act is abolished by the UK Government, the Scottish Parliament can re-instate it for Scotland’s devolved purposes. We are confident that the Scottish Parliament would refuse to give consent for the Scotland Act to be amended to remove the ECHR-related protections.

If you have any questions or concerns about how the referendum result might affect LGBTI people in Scotland, please email us on en@equality-network.org. We will do our best, bearing in mind the current uncertainties, to answer.

Tim Hopkins
Director