Issue 7: Nov 2013

EQUALITY: THE LAST HURDLE. OR IS IT ?

By Dan Aldridge, Policy Manager, Stonewall Scotland

As the Bill legalising same-sex marriage makes its way through Holyrood, many are rightly excited for a more equal Scotland where people will be able to marry the person they love, regardless of their gender. The very fact that equal marriage is even being debated in a country where homosexuality was still a criminal offence as recently as 1981 is a testament to the hard work and conviction of many people across many walks of life who, over the last 32 years, have overseen a huge shift towards legal equality and public support for LGB and T people.

With this in mind, many may think our job is nearly done on achieving LGB and T equality. Equal marriage is the last piece of the legislative puzzle. Unfortunately we know that we still have a long way to go before full legal equality is reflected in the day-to-day experiences of LGB and T people living in Scotland, for whom discrimination, homophobic attitudes, and even violence are not just feared but can be expected. One in three LGB and T people in Scotland have been physically attacked, and two in three have been verbally attacked for their sexuality or gender identity.

Many people in Scotland and the wider UK also grew up under the shadow of Section 28 (or 2a in Scotland) of the Local Government Act 1988...

Many people in Scotland and the wider UK also grew up under the shadow of Section 28 (or 2a in Scotland) of the Local Government Act 1988, prohibiting the promotion of “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. The reality of this pernicious amendment was that at best schools and teachers felt that their hands were tied in dealing with anti-gay bullying, and at the worst, condoned it and allowed it to foster a culture of homophobia in our Schools that persists to this day. With 99% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students in Scottish schools hearing the terms “you’re so gay” and “that’s so gay” in a derogatory fashion and over half being directly bullied for their sexuality, is it any wonder that one in four young LGB people go on to attempt to take their own lives? Similarly is it surprising that we see some of the poorest levels of mental health in our society amongst LGB and T adults? At the same time, many LGB and T people are still apprehensive about accessing health services for fear of the discrimination that they might experience within the system, and when we see some of the damaging comments aired during the equal-marriage debate it’s not hard to see why many might avoid contact with unknown quantities such as nurses, doctors or GP receptionists.

The fact that lesbian and bisexual women are over twice as likely not to have had a cervical smear test than straight women, and many are not aware that cervical cancer is still a risk to them shows how generic approaches to safeguarding the nation’s health fall short. The current approaches are not enough to make sure certain communities or demographics are not disproportionately affected by life threatening and life limiting conditions. At Stonewall Scotland, through memberships of our various programmes we are fortunate to work with some fantastically committed and resourceful NHS Boards, Councils and private healthcare providers who really understand the need to go that extra mile to make their LGB and T staff and service users feel safe and secure with the service. Reputation means a lot to minority groups and a visible and tangible commitment to LGB and T equality in all areas of service provision really can mean the difference between life and death.

The overwhelming public support for equal marriage can also give us confidence that hearts and minds are being won.

At Stonewall Scotland we offer support to organisations to make good on their legal and moral duties to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and we continue to see a vision of a Scotland at peace with its differences and which considers these differences as a source of strength for the future. Looking forward, we have a lot to be positive and hopeful about. We hope that equal marriage will allow young LGB and T people hold their heads higher in the face of prejudice and bullying, as they grow up knowing that they are accepted within an institution at the heart of our society. The overwhelming public support for equal marriage can also give us confidence that hearts and minds are being won. But at Stonewall Scotland we are not complacent and we know that making good on our commitments and visions for world-class services that do not discriminate is not over.

Dan Aldridge is Policy Manager of Stonewall Scotland

 

By Dan Aldridge, Policy Manager, Stonewall Scotland

Issue 7: Nov 2013

Issue 7: Nov 2013

HEALTH, WELL BEING AND AGEING: SCOTLAND 2020

Re-energising the move towards integrated care

Scotland's move to integrated care can learn from elsewhere by focussing on two key differentiators between successful partnerships and those paying lip service to integrated working: Shared outcomes and common language is one, the other is demonstrating mutual investments and mutual benefits.

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