Friday, 28 April 2017

A Bold & Wide-Ranging LGBTQIA+ Manifesto: My Thoughts on the Green Party GE2017 LGBTQIA+ Manifesto

This morning in Camden, the Green Party became the first political party in the 2017 UK General Election to unveil specific policies to help LGBTQIA+ people in the UK (you can read it for yourself here: https://lgbtiqa.greenparty.org.uk/resources/lgbtiqagreens/downloads/LGBTIQAManifesto2017.pdf). Having gone through it, I must say that I find the policy platform absolutely fantastic, with the Greens keen to take action in areas such as Trans Health, Intersex rights and protecting LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers. It's pretty much exactly the bold kind of reform I want to see take place within the next 5 years and other political parties should take note: the Equality Act 2010, Gender Recognition Act 2004 & Same Sex Marriage may have marked a great step forward LGBT equality wise but it's time to make the necessary legal changes we need to improve the lives of non-binary, intersex, aromantic and asexual people in the UK. Aimee Challenor, LGBTQIA+ Greens Chair and Equalities Spokesperson has done a tremendous job of facilitating and developing the policy platform along with Green Party members. So it's only fair and proper that I outline my thoughts on some of the updated and new policies below.

  • The Greens realise that when the economy isn't growing as strongly as expected or when austerity measures have been implemented, LGBTQIA+ services are particularly impacted by usually sharp reductions in local government budgets and health budgets. So I'm really pleased to see a commitment to provide local authorities with funding to be able to protect specialised services. Sexual health clinics in particular need to receive funding so that specific advice and guidance can continue to be offered to young people embarking on same-sex experiences for the first time. As someone who wants to see domestic violence service provision improve and become more accessible to LGBTQIA+ survivors, funding to help facilitate this beyond the current earmarked £20m Conservative fund would be welcome indeed.
  • The Civil Partnership Act 2004 does need to amended so that heterosexual couples can have the choice as to whether they have a Civil Partnership ceremony or a marriage ceremony. 
  • The Human Rights Act 1998 would be protected in its entirety allowing LGBTQIA+ to continue to express themselves openly in public without fear of being regulated.
  • I approve of the idea to pardon 50,000 to 100,000 people who engaged in consensual same-sex activity when anti-sodomy laws were in place; the anti-sodomy laws have now been repealed so it makes perfect sense to pardon those who did absolutely nothing wrong. 
  • Improved hate-crime legislation is imperative; we need to look at equalising the length of sentence given to perpetrators so that it sends out a clear message that hate crime of any type will not be tolerated. That includes hate crimes committed against intersex people. The Greens would also improve public awareness of non-binary identities and intersex people to reduce instances of hate crime through education programmes and strengthening HR training in public sector workplaces. 
  • We need to look at how to reduce waiting times on the NHS for trans and non-binary people to see specialists at Gender Identity Clinics. This means conducting a review into the effectiveness of NHS services including looking into the viability of expanding the number of GICs across the UK and recruiting more nurses into trans healthcare, including trans and non-binary nurses. 
  • Removal of the dreaded Spousal Veto component of the Gender Recognition Act has been a long time coming and I'm glad the Greens have committed to its removal so openly. No married trans person should have to obtain consent from a partner to attain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC); the current system is also open to female and male DVA perpetrators who can use the Spousal Veto as a form of Coercive Control.
  • Self-declaration of gender is what I'd like to see adopted in the UK as standard form of practice. If you can do it in Norway, if our neighbours can do it in Ireland, there is no reason why we can't do it in the UK. Non-binary people shouldn't have to go through a "proof" process just to obtain recognition of their gender identity and obtain a GRC which they cannot do anyway at the moment.  
  • The Greens have joined the Lib Dems in calling for X gender markers to be an available option on passports so that non-binary and intersex individuals can use the marker to indicate their gender status. Such a policy is commonsense to me and doesn't lead to any watering down of gender identity as fearmongerers would have voters believe.
  • Intersex people deserve to have legal recognition, including within the Equality Act. It makes no sense that trans people who have indicated they may or will go through Gender Reassignment Surgery are protected but intersex people are not. Therefore I welcome the Green Party's suggestion that intersex should be included as a specific protected characteristic.
  • Unnecessary sex assignment surgeries conducted on a infant or child which isn't done for valid health reasons should be made a criminal offence. Young people have the right to decide their gender identity and whether they wish to undergo a sex assignment procedure. Young intersex people have the right to receive appropriate information to make an informed decision. So I welcome the Green Party's pledge to make it illegal for a doctor to determine a person's sex when it is inappropriate to do so.
  • NHS professionals may need more HR training on how to help intersex patients so it's important that intersex activists work with GPs, nurses and mental health providers as to how individual trusts can deliver the highest quality of patient care and avoiding discriminatory practices.
  • I'm incredibly pleased to see that the Green Party wants to see asexuality taught as part of a LGBTQIA+ inclusive Sex and Relationships Education programme which the Greens want to see implemented in an age-appropriate manner from primary school age onwards. Young people need to know that it's not "weird" to have little or no sexual attraction and that the contributions they can make to society are just as valid as anyone else's. Introducing legislation to protect asexual and aromantic people from discrimination and harassment is a must and I look forward to seeing how such proposals would develop and whether any other political parties are prepared to help facilitate development of the legislation regardless of which party ends up in Government on June 9th.
  • The Greens want to bring forward the consultation on reducing the blood donation deferral period for men who have sex with men (currently 12 months). All evidence should be reviewed and a decision should be made within the next two years.
  • HIV campaigners and organisations such as the Terrence Higgins Trust have pressed the Conservative Government to provide PrEP pills (which help prevent HIV) to everyone who has a high risk of contracting HIV on the NHS for months. NHS Scotland decided to provide PrEP on the 10th April so the NHS in England is lagging embarrassingly behind. I agree with the Greens that PrEP should be made available on the NHS and I'd suggest this should happen within the next 6 months.
  • HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) should be taught about in all schools so that students remain aware of the risks of engaging in sex without condoms.
  • Whilst the Conservative Government has committed to tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying in schools across the UK by engaging third party organisations to deliver lessons, especially in state schools, it isn't really enough of a positive step forward. Requiring EVERY school to adopt an anti bullying programme that tackles HBT bullying, including faith schools as the Greens has suggested would help to foster a culture of tolerance and compassion towards students and staff, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. 
  • Teachers should have the knowledge and skills they need to fully support their LGBTQIA+ students. This could be provided by creating specific training modules to be delivered during PGCE courses and updates courses for qualified teachers from qualified HR and L&D professionals  would help teachers feel able to provide support to LGBTQIA+ students in a compassionate way.
  • Sports organisations need to continue towards making sport more accessible for LGBTQIA+ people, especially at grassroots level. That includes looking at changing facility provision, addressing HBT verbal bullying and investing in HR training for all sports club staff. 
  • As I've argued in previous blogposts, we need to do more to help protect LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. The Conservatives haven't really addressed the issue satisfactorily whilst they've been in Government and I believe that change to the asylum system is needed now so that it is truly fair to LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers. I welcome the Greens' suggestion that "a moratorium on deportation for LGBTQIA+ refugees" is necessary; it's not fair to deport them whilst a review of the system is taking place. I also agree that refugees shouldn't have to be accommodated in detention centres whilst their claims go through processing procedures and should be able to find work during that time period. Why deny someone the opportunity to find work if they have skills that could be used to help benefit the UK economy? 
  • Refugees should have access to legal aid and the legal aid system needs to be properly funded anyways and protected from further cuts. 
  • Border control systems definitely need to be reformed and I welcome the Greens' suggestion that the next Government should fully implement the recommendations made by John Vine (former Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration). Border agents do need equality training so they avoid asking sexually-explicit questions that could cause more distress to refugees and asylum seekers who may have been subjected to rape before fleeing their home or during their journey to the UK. 
  • The Conservatives continue to claim that they have continued to advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights abroad. It's true that British Consulates have been used as venues for couples who wish to have a same-sex marriage (notably in Australia) but Theresa May hasn't publicly condemned the actions of Kaydrov in Chechnya (where openly gay and bi men are being illegally detained, tortured and murdered). The Greens believe that we need to continue sending a strong message of tolerance and acceptance to countries around the world. That's why I think that the UK should be bold enough to use the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court to prosecute the Chechen regime for human rights abuses and prosecute other regimes for willful discrimination against their LGBTQIA+ citizens. I'd like to see the UK work with its international partners and defy Russia by asking for specific sanctions against the Chechen regime and the Russian Government for failing to take position action to prevent further atrocities from being committed. We should also urge all Commonwealth countries to follow the UK's lead and decriminalise homosexuality and bring in anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQIA+ people.
The Green Party has set down the gauntlet for other political parties in this General Election cycle when it comes to improving LGBTQIA+ rights. It's time for positive, substantive change, especially in relation to establishing the first comprehensive legal rights for intersex and asexual and aromantic people. The plan will help LGBTQIA+ people regardless of their social background, including their legal status to remain in the UK, something that those on the right (especially the populist far right) seem adamant not to address. They may show concern for gay people being thrown off buildings in Syria but should they dare come to the UK seeking asylum and their first response is to deport them. That's not type of response that I want to see as part of a compassionate, progressive, liberal UK. One that recognises that we need to change cultural attitudes to help others live more fulfilling, positive lives. Making LGBTQIA+ SRE compulsory in schools, making PrEP avaliable to help prevent new cases of HIV, being able to take strong action on Chechnya. Those are the sorts of policy actions needed to fulfill a vision of the UK I envisage for us, regardless of whether Brexit ends up happening or not. 

I can't wait to see what LGBTQIA+ policies will be proposed by Labour and the Lib Dems but I wonder whether they will be as bold as the policy platform laid out by Aimee and the Green Party today. I give this Green Party manifesto 2 very big thumbs up.