9 Dec 2007

Some people are Gay - Get Over It!

Some people are gay. Get over it! Earlier this year Stonewall asked 150 secondary school students to help them come up with a simple and dynamic message to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying. The result was a powerful range of campaign materials: Some people are gay. Get over it! This message of zero-tolerance to homophobic behaviour has been produced as posters, postcards and stickers, and in November was sent to all 5000 secondary schools in England as part of national Anti-Bullying Week. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with hundreds of schools asking for more materials. Star of Doctor Who and Torchwood John Barrowman has lent his support to the campaign, urging people to give their support: "Join me in Stonewall's Education for All campaign and help exterminate homophobia. Be bold. Be brave. Be a buddy not a bully." In fact, requests have come in from across the world, with posters being sighted as far away as Austria, Canada, France, Hungary and the U.S.A!

Support Education for All by clicking here and ordering your campaign materials.

Sperm donor ordered to pay child maintenance

A man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple is being made to pay maintenance by the Child Support Agency (CSA). Andy Bathie, 37, from Enfield, north London, claims he was assured by the couple he would have no personal or financial involvement for the children. He donated his sperm as a friend rather than go through a fertility clinic. This is a common arrangement due to limted access to assisted reproduction in clinics for lesbians. The couple though claim differently and say that Bathie did have some involvement and in fact behaved as a full time father and therefore should take some financial responsibility.

The CSA said only anonymous donors at licensed centres are exempt from being treated as the legal father of a child born as a result of their donation. Bathie, a firefighter, said he cannot afford to have children with his own wife due to the financial implications. The lesbian couple, who approached the couple five years ago after they married in a civil ceremony, have a boy and a girl. They said that they were put under pressure from the CSA to reveal the identity of the Father otherwise their Income Support would be reduced.

Mr Bathie said he reacted with "shock, anger and despair", when he was contacted by the CSA in November. He said: "I don't have any particular ill will. It's the fact that I still even now don't see why I should have to pay for another couple's children."

A spokesman for Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said: "The law says that men donating sperm through licensed fertility clinics are not the legal father of any child born through that donation. "Men giving out their sperm in any other way - such as via internet arrangements - are legally the father of any children born with all the responsibilities that carries."

A spokeswoman for CSA said: "Unless the child is legally adopted, both biological parents are financially responsible for their child - the Child Support Agency legislation is not gender or partnership based." Ministers have drawn up fertility reforms giving equal parenting rights to same-sex couples who "marry" in a civil partnership. This means they will be recognised as the legal parents of children conceived through sperm donation.

However, this just shows how much pressure the CSA put on women to name the father of a child and the narrow exceptions when the Father cannot be named. This is truly discriminatory to lesbians and gay men who twenty years ago would not have any access to fertility clinics and even now still have limited access. The law still requires that access to assisted reproduction needs to take into account the child's need for a father which deters lesbians from accessing such services or even being refused services. However, it is likely that a same sex partner's resources would be taken into account if the other partner was being assessed to pay child support for chldren from a previous heterosexual relationship which is the irony of the situation.

The changes in the law if they do happen will come too late for Mr Bathie, although he is pushing for the law to be retrospective. However these changes are meeting with attacks from anti-gay peers and there have been amendments submitted to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to prevent the changes that Mr Bathie is calling for. The amendments are likely to be debated at the next reading of the bill in House of Lords Committee on the 10th December 2007. Following committee stage the bill will proceed to the Commons.

For more on the bill read previous
post. Also see analysis in Pink News.

2 Dec 2007

Hidden Hate

On the 29th November a committee of MPs approved amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill that will make incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation an offence which is long overdue. None of the Conservative MPs on the committee voted against the proposals. The Bill will now proceed to a report stage and third reading in the Commons before being sent to the Lords. See further details from Pink News.

It was
originally thought that the provisions would be extended to cover incitement to hatred against trans people and disabled people but this does not now appear to be the case for definate and is only going to be considered. With the recent murder of Kellie Telesford and the countless murder, torture and brutality of trans people worldwide such as Gisberta, there is overwhelming evidence that the law needs to be extended to cover hatred against Trans people.

Incitement against hatred towards disabled people is also so much needed. Disability organisations and charities report that crimes against disabled people is worryingly common but there is massive under-reporting. The 2003 Criminal Justice Act made it the courts' duty to increase the sentence for "any offence aggravated by hostility based on the victim's disability". The law came into force in 2005, but the CPS only started recording cases as "disability aggravated" in April this year. Since then only 68 cases had been identified, but a BBC Radio 5 Live Report
Hidden Hate has new figures showing a third of these were incorrectly recorded.

The CPS says at least 30 cases have been successfully prosecuted and it is "firmly committed to bringing the perpetrators of crimes against disabled people to justice". It points to a new system of 42 area-based disability hate crime coordinators, the inclusion of a new "disability aggravated" category into its monitoring of cases, and a new campaign to raise awareness among staff. The police have also accepted there has been massive under-reporting of the issue. Real levels were estimated to represent a "many 100-fold increase of cases compared to what the police know about" according to Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris in recent evidence to a parliamentary group considering the issue.

Several recent high profile cases have helped bring the issue to prominence including
Kevin Davies, who had epilepsy and died after being locked up in a shed for five months and tortured by so-called friends. He was starved, beaten, burnt, branded, cut and neglected until he died. Murder could not be proved because Kevin had epilepsy and it was possible he died from a seizure. The defendants pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and assault but the case was not investigated as a disability hate crime.

See BBC Article
Fears of Disability Hate Crime, CPS Disability Hate Crime Policy, CPS Guidance on prosecuting homophobic hate crime

1 Dec 2007

Dont Dis-my-Ability - UN International Day of Disabled Persons - 3rd December 2007

The United Nations General Assembly announced that 3 December is to be observed every year as the International Day of Disabled Persons. The Day was initially proclaimed to commemorate the anniversary of the General Assembly's adoption of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled people to promote understanding about disability issues and to increase awareness. The UN Programme on Disability is the lead programme on disability within the United Nations System. It is housed in the Division for Social Policy and Development at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN Secretariat. The programme stems from the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons adopted by the United Nations in 1982 and the Standard Rules on Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities adopted in 1994.

The major objectives of the Programme are the following:

  • To support the full and effective participation of disabled people in social life and development
  • To advance the rights and protect the dignity of disabled people
  • To promote equal access to employment, education, information, goods and services

The International Year of Disabled Persons, 1981, was a milestone in the long history of the struggle of disabled people against discrimination and segregation, and for equal rights. The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons recognised disabled persons first and foremost as citizens vested with all the rights and obligations that this implied. For the next 50 years, the United Nations’ commitment to ‘a society for all’ will continue to make a difference in the lives not only of disabled people, but among all people

This year's International Day of Disabled Persons focuses on how to ensure decent work for disabled people and on ways to tap into the abilities of this marginalized talent pool. The recently adopted Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes in Article 27 the rights of disabled people to work and employment on an equal basis with others. It stresses the right of disabled people to earn a living from freely chosen work, and to work in an environment that is both accessible and accepting. More details about the Convention and the International Day of Disabled Persons are available on the United Nations Enable website.

DIS my ABILITY is the slogan of the New South Wales Government International Day of Disabled Persons)