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News release: Passing of pardons bill welcomed by LGBTI charity

Scottish LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality charity the Equality Network welcomes the expected passing today by the Scottish Parliament of the bill that pardons people convicted of the old discriminatory offences of sex between men. The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill has its final stage 3 debate in the Parliament this afternoon.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We very much welcome the Parliament passing this bill. This is concrete recognition of the huge harm that was done to people who were prosecuted or lived under these old laws. Together with the First Minister’s public apology in the Parliament in November, the message is that Scotland has changed for good, and that discrimination is no longer acceptable.

“The next stage will be to implement and publicise the new law. Publicity will be crucial so that all those affected by these historical convictions get to hear about it.

“LGBTI people continue to face prejudice and hostility, and there is much more to do. We look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government, on the forthcoming reform of the Gender Recognition Act for trans people, and other work to address homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and to promote fairness for all.”

The bill states clearly that these historical convictions were wrong and discriminatory, and the First Minister made a public apology for this on behalf of the Scottish Government when the bill was published on 7th November last year. The bill gives a formal pardon for these convictions where the activity would not be a crime today. The pardon applies both posthumously to people who are no longer living, and to those who are living. The bill also enables people who have one of these convictions on their records to have it removed (called a “disregard”), so that it no longer shows up on criminal record checks for employment or volunteering.

Tim Hopkins added: “The bill does a better job than the equivalent legislation in the rest of the UK. Unlike that legislation, it provides an automatic pardon to people who are still alive, and also covers all the old discriminatory offences, including where men were prosecuted simply for chatting up other men – called ‘importuning’.”

Until 1981, all sexual activity between men was a criminal offence in Scotland. Legislation in 1980 (which came into effect in 1981) decriminalised sex between men over the age of 21 (the age of consent for sex between men and women, or between two women, was then 16). In 1994 the age of consent for sex between men was reduced from 21 to 18, but it was not until 2001 that the discrimination was removed, by equalising the age of consent at 16.

Prior to these changes, men were prosecuted for activity with another man that would have been legal then between a man and a woman, and that is legal today between two men. This included consensual sexual activity in private, and acts such as kissing another man in a public place, or just chatting up another man in a public place.

The Equality Network estimates that the total number of these historical discriminatory convictions in Scotland runs into thousands, and that there are hundreds of men alive today with such convictions on their records.

 

Sex between women was never criminalised in this way in Scotland, and the same rules applied to it as applied for sex between a man and a woman.

It is likely to take some months for the Scottish Government to put in place the regulations that will set out how criminal records will be updated when a disregard is granted, so it is expected that the new law will come into effect towards the end of the year.

ENDS

For further information, please contact the Equality Network’s Director Tim Hopkins on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org

Notes to editors:

1. The Equality Network is a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland:
www.equality-network.org

2. The First Minister’s statement of apology can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11174&i=101857

3. More information about the bill and consideration of it by the Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/106817.aspx

Equality Network welcomes Lord Bracadale’s report on hate crime law

The Equality Network, the Scottish LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality charity, welcomes the publication today of Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime legislation.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We welcome the report, and we hope that the Scottish Government will soon introduce a bill to update the law. We are pleased at the recommendation to update the existing law on hate crimes that target transgender people and those that target intersex people, recognising the difference. And we welcome the proposal for a new offence to deal with the stirring up of hatred through threatening or abusive conduct. This will fill a gap created by the repeal of the non-football related provisions of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. Changing the law is not the whole answer though; more needs to be done to further improve responses by police, prosecutors and courts, and to encourage people to report crimes to the police.”

The Equality Network’s Scottish LGBTI hate crime report 2017 found that 64% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Scotland have experienced hate crime. For transgender people the figure is 80%, and for intersex people 77%. Nine out of ten LGBTI people who had experienced hate crime had experienced it more than once, and a third of them, more than ten times. 71% did not report any of these crimes to the police.  Of those who did report hate crimes, many were not satisfied with the responses of the criminal justice system.

The Equality Network worked closely with Patrick Harvie on his hate crime member’s bill, which became the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009, but the organisation has been calling for some years for further review and updating of hate crime law.

ENDS

For further information, please contact the Equality Network’s Director Tim Hopkins on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org  

Notes to editors:

1.    The Equality Network is a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland:
www.equality-network.org

2.    Lord Bracadale’s report can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00535892.pdf

3.    The Equality Network’s Scottish LGBTI hate crime report 2017 can be found here: https://www.equality-network.org/resources/publications/policy/scottish-lgbti-hate-crime-report/

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.

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

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

Statement about EU referendum: UK has voted to leave; Scotland backs Remain

EU and Scottish flagsIn yesterday’s referendum, every one of the 32 council areas in Scotland voted to remain in the EU. Overall, Scotland voted by 62% to 38% in favour of remaining in the EU:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-36599102

However, the UK as a whole voted in the referendum to leave the EU. Overall, Leave received 52% of the UK’s votes, while 48% voted in favour of Remaining in the EU:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36615028

 Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network stated: “To our friends in other European countries, in the EU and the rest of Europe, we promise to continue to work with you so that together we can continue to promote LGBTI equality right across Europe.”

We will keep monitoring the situation and update here in due course, as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: LGBT mother Beverley has been released

The Equality Network would like to thank everyone who responded to our urgent call for action yesterday to support Beverley, one of our volunteers who was about to be sent back to Namibia. We are delighted to report that Beverley and her son are being driven back to Glasgow today.

Beverley

 

 

 

 

There will still be a lot of work to get her refugee status but the immediate crisis is over. Beverley is in good spirits and thanks everyone for all their help and support.

Thank you!

Yours for equality,

Sam Rankin
Intersectional Equalities Coordinator
Equality Network

 

URGENT CALL FOR ACTION: Act now to support LGBT mother Beverley

The Equality Network is very sad to hear that one of our valued volunteers, Beverley, and her 14 year old son, are being detained and are due to be flown back to Namibia on Thursday 24 March 2016. Some of you will have met Beverley at Pride Glasgow or during our intersectional training. During our trainings Beverley has been giving personal testimonies about how difficult her life was in Namibia because of discrimination against her sexual orientation and the violence she faced as a result.

Beverley

We are working urgently with The Unity Centre, LGBT Unity community group and Positive Action in Housing to see if anything can be done.

 

 

The Unity Centre has set up an urgent petition. If you would like to sign it please go to: https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-stop-imminent-removal-of-lgbt-mother-and-son-brutally-assaulted-by-ho-officers-in-glasgow

The Unity Centre says: “Beverley and her son have been a constant welcome presence in The Unity Centre. We admire the way in which Beverley has spoken out about her sexuality and also ongoing horrific treatment by the UK Home Office. The massive and immediate response to Beverley and her son’s violent raid, detention and planned removal from the UK is a testament to their connection to the Glasgow community. We genuinely fear for what could happen to the pair if they are forced to return to Namibia. Friends are working tirelessly to ensure legal representation is secured and that the campaign to stop this removal continues. The UK Home Office wish to send this family back to a place they fled without any country guidance to support their claim that the family will be safe; expert evidence in fact suggests the contrary. This is true of many countries where individuals are removed daily and the practice is unacceptable.”

Whatever happens, we all send our best to Beverley and her son. We are grateful for her courage and dedication to helping other LGBT asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland. Should she be sent back to Namibia we will miss her very much and be gravely concerned for her safety.

For any enquiries, contact:

Sam Rankin
Intersectional Equalities Coordinator
Equality Network
07747 040 355

 

PRESS RELEASE: Police and equality charities begin innovative programme to crack down on LGBTI hate crime

Police Scotland and the Equality Network are to work together to train more than 60 officers to help prevent hate crime faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

The Equality Network, Scotland’s national LGBTI equality charity, will deliver a training programme for police at locations around the country that will help Police Scotland support victims of hate crime, and increase public confidence in police.

Once they have completed the training, police officers will become part of a new network of LGBTI Liaison Officers who can be contacted by members of the LGBTI community. The officers will also be able to help and advise their colleagues across Police Scotland on LGBTI issues.

As part of a coordinated programme of work, the Equality Network will also provide training for Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service staff, while LGBT Youth Scotland will roll out a programme across schools in Scotland to support children and teachers to address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

These initiatives are part of the National LGBT Hate Crime Partnership which brings together 35 LGBT organisations from across England, Wales and Scotland, and is being delivered on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and led by the LGBT Consortium.

Superintendent Jim Baird of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities Department said: “Tackling hate crime is a priority for Police Scotland. We are delighted to have worked with the Equality Network. Research and studies show hate crime against the LGBTI community is often under reported. We hope that these specially trained officers will encourage more LGBTI people to come forward with the confidence in Police Scotland to help reverse this trend.”

Supt Baird added: “If anyone feels they have been the victim of, or witness to, a crime which is motivated by malice or ill will because of sexual orientation or gender identity they should report it to us directly, online or through a Third Party Reporting site.

“We take all such reports very seriously and will conduct thorough investigations to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Scott Cuthbertson of the Equality Network added: “We know too many LGBTI people are the victims of hate crime, but we also know that many, for whatever reason, still do not report hate crimes. We want to change that.

“That’s why we are pleased to be working so closely with Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and other criminal justice agencies to provide training on LGBTI issues and to work together to remove the barriers to reporting a hate crime.”

Fergus McMillan, Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland said: “More must be done to ensure that LGBTI people feel safe in their communities, understand their rights and how to report discrimination and harassment, and have the confidence to report.

“Despite strong legislation in Scotland, harassment, verbal abuse and violent crime is still a reality for many LGBTI people. The majority of it does not get reported to the police.

“LGBT Youth Scotland’s recent safety report highlighted that around half of all LGBT respondents would not feel confident reporting a crime to the police, and only 50% said that they were aware of what their rights are under hate crime legislation.

“We are currently working with a range of partners, including Equality Network, to increase the reporting of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crimes and incidents and improve the support available to those targeted.”

In Scotland, sexual orientation aggravated crime is the second most common type of hate crime, but research shows that many people do not report incidents to the police.

Alastair Pringle, director of EHRC Scotland, said: “While attitudes towards the Scottish LGBTI community have undoubtedly improved over the years, our recent report into the state of equalities in Scotland, ‘Is Scotland Fairer’, shows that hate crime is still a serious issue.

“The training programme is a welcome step in tackling hate crime and will hopefully increase people’s confidence in the police to recognise and report it. This is the kind of excellent work which will contribute to reaching our goal of making Scotland fairer for everyone.”

The number of charges for sexual orientation aggravated crime has risen since hate crime legislation came into effect in Scotland in March 2010, to stand at 841 in 2014-15. While reporting of transphobic hate crime remains low at 21 charges in 2014-15, there is evidence of significant under-reporting.

A recent report by the Equality Network found that almost half of LGBT respondents had experienced or witnessed an incident of prejudice or discrimination in the past month, rising to 79% within the past year and 97% within their lifetimes.

The Scottish LGBT Equality Report also found that transgender respondents were more likely to have experienced recent prejudice or discrimination. One out of seven respondents (14%) had experienced or witnessed an incident in the last 24 hours, almost half (45%) in the last week and 91% in the last year.

More information on hate crime and how to report it can be found on the Police Scotland website http://www.scotland.police.uk/contact-us/hate-crime-and-third-party-reporting/

ENDS

For all media enquiries, please contact:

Equality Network: Jacq Kelly, Hate Crime Policy Officer, on 0131 467 6039 or 07718 227 664 or jacq@equality-network.org

Police Scotland: Morven Donnelly, Corporate Communications Officer, Police Scotland – 01786 456 441/ morven.donnelly@scotland.pnn.police.uk

Notes to editors:

  • The Equality Network is Scotland’s national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights charity: www.equality-network.org
  • LGBT Youth Scotland is Scotland’s National charity for LGBT young people, working with LGBT young people aged 13 – 25 across Scotland, providing groupwork, 1 to 1 support, counselling, youth activism and participation programmes. www.lgbtyouth.org.uk
  • The National LGBT Hate Crime Partnership has a website at www.lgbthatecrime.org.uk where you can find further information and resources.
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the statutory body mandated by the UK Parliament to challenge discrimination, and to protect and promote human rights: www.equalityhumanrights.com
  • The LGBT Consortium is a UK national membership organisation focusing on the development and support of LGBT groups, projects and organisations; so they can deliver direct services and campaign for individual rights: www.lgbtconsortium.org.uk

 

1,671 Scottish same-sex marriages in 2015

The Equality Network welcomes the publication of the provisional figures for the take-up of same-sex marriages and civil partnerships in Scotland in 2015. According to the statistics released last week, there were 1,671 same-sex marriages in Scotland in 2015. Of those, 935 were conversions from existing civil partnerships and 736 were “new” marriages.

This brings the total number of same-sex marriages so far in Scotland from its introduction on 16 December 2014 to 31 December 2015 to 2,038. Of those, 1,294 were conversions from civil partnerships, and 744 were “new”. This means that, so far, only around one quarter of couples in Scottish civil partnerships have chosen to convert their partnership to a marriage.

There were 64 new civil partnerships registered in 2015, showing that there is a significant minority of same-sex couples who prefer to register a civil partnership rather than a marriage. This is why the Equality Network is opposed to the abolition of civil partnership. Instead, we believe that civil partnership should be opened up to all couples regardless of gender, thus bringing equality and diversity of choice for all.

The statistics were published by the National Records of Scotland on 9 March 2016 as part of the provisional figures for births, deaths, adoptions, marriages and civil partnerships registered during 2015. For more information, click here to visit their website.