Friday, 28 February 2014
The last seven days have seen events unfolding around the world which present a challenge and stiff test for the LGBT community and activists. Nowhere more so is this the case than in Uganda.
The tragic death of teacher and LGBT activist David Kato in 2011 shocked the world and finally drew attention to the unacceptable discrimination and persecution of LGBT people in that country. A country where the state is often happy to overlook gang beatings, “corrective” rape and even murder of individuals on the basis of not only their sexuality but also their perceived sexuality and gender identity.
The pressure that was brought to bear by the global community at that time was sufficient to supress the initial attempts to pass an Anti-Homosexuality bill through Uganda’s parliament.
Sadly, on the 24th February 2014, Uganda’s president Museveni signed a new Anti-Homosexuality bill into law having been satisfied by “experts” that being LGBT was unnatural. This further stiffens the level of punishment in Uganda to a level just short of death.
The STUC LGBT Workers’ Committee strongly condemns this further infringement of individual human rights and is equally concerned with similar developments in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. We would urge all our affiliates to lobby the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to express our opposition to developments in Uganda and would also encourage individuals to write to their local MPs.
As a show of support to LGBT in Uganda and all around the world where they face discrimination, violence and imprisonment, the Equality Network is holding a rally on The Mound in Edinburgh on Friday 7th March between 12.00 pm and 1.30pm. We would urge trade union activists to show their support by attending this rally and send a clear message that Human Rights are to be protected.
STUC LGBT Workers' Committee
Friday, 21 February 2014
On Thursday the STUC launched its second A Just Scotland paper (AJS2). It is the product of extensive consultation with our members: a detailed, thoughtful piece of work which we hope will be a constructive contribution to the debate on Scotland’s Constitutional future.
It addresses serious issues in a serious way, and reflects as far as is possible the questions that union members want answered before September - questions for the Scottish and UK Government’s; the Labour Party; and the official Yes and No campaigns and their constituent parts.
The paper does not reach a conclusive view on whether the STUC should recommend a ‘yes, or ‘no’ vote and recognises that whilst individual unions may reasonably take a view based on their own priorities, it is entirely possible that STUC will not.
It also recognises that for many, including a significant number of trade unionists, the answer to the questions posed by the referendum ‘isn’t obvious’. They are in the process of balancing the pros and cons of Independence and the maintenance of the Union. Presenting a binary view in which there are no positive aspects to the alternative position or weaknesses within one’s own is neither helpful to those who are still undecided or to the quality of debate generally.
When we launched AJS in September 2012 our hope was that we could create a space to have an open and honest debate, where the issues can be explored and the evidence examined, so that individuals and organisations can make up their own minds, and where people can ask questions and express views without fear of being labeled as a lackey of one campaign or political party.
And I said at that time, that the Scottish media have a responsibility not to report everything in relation to the Referendum with reference to the views of one or another political party or Government, the BBC and others having reported the STUC’s response to UK Government’s consultation on the Referendum in early 2012 under the headline ‘STUC supports SNP’.
Unfortunately, it appears that my plea to the media has fallen on deaf ears.
Having launched AJS2 on Thursday I was astonished to discover that the Scotsman online reported our paper and my comments at its launch under the headline ‘STUC backs Independence’. When it was pointed out how ridiculous this was the headline was changed. Unfortunately the article remained as a partial (and by that I mean incomplete rather than biased - I would never accuse a journalist of bias-) report of both our paper and my press conference comments.
What was reported as my claim that union members were 'more attracted’ to the campaign for Independence was a comparison I said was being made by our members of the respective vision for social justice presented at this point by both sides of the debate.
What I said (and I know this is what I said as I wrote my remarks beforehand and presented them word for word) and what wasn’t reported, was that: 'while attracted to some of the vision presented by Yes and the Scottish Government some questions remain about it credibility - how it can be delivery - is it consistent with the broader economic model presented by the Scottish Government of low corporate and personal taxation and deregulation?'.
What I also went on to say ( and again not reported) was that: 'there also remain concerns that the Scottish Government's proposed macroeconomic approach will make it more difficult for that vision to be achieved' and that 'the Scottish Government needs to be more convincing that as a junior partner in any currency union with rUK it will not be subject to the sort of fiscal and monetary constraints that would make the public spending that our members see as necessary to reduce inequality, provide a fair welfare system and quality public services impossible. Monetary union may well be the best option for an Independent Scotland, it will have consequences and more frankness on these consequences from the Scottish Government would be welcome as it would be for these in the Yes camp who advocate a separate Scottish currency’.
When asked directly by the journalist in question whether the STUC was leaning more towards Yes I said ‘No!’.
AJS2 in intended to raise questions for both sides and not to favour one over another.
On the No campaign I said that many of our members ‘have been largely disappointed at the lack of vision presented by the devolutionist/unionist parties. It is not enough for them to say we will present our vision for social justice if indeed they have one in their manifestos for the 2015 UK Election or the 2016 Scottish Election – the Referendum is in 2014’.
I went on to say that ‘if George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander can be definitive that an Independent Scotland will not be allowed to use the Pound, the unionist/devolutionist parties should be able to give a definitive commitment that any block grant funding formula would not would not place Scotland in a worse position relative to rUK if we vote No and should make firm commitments on the further powers that will be devolved to Scotland in that event’.
At least the Scotsman journalist attended our press conference. The Daily Record reported what I was supposed to have said without the journalist having been in attendance or without having spoken to me either before or after! .By a strange coincidence, the Record’s report contained the same quotes attributed to me and presented the same misrepresentation of my remarks and the STUC’s position as did the Scotsman!
It is little wonder that few in civil society and in industry are willing to put their heads above the parapet and engage in the debate on Independence when the media persist in reporting (or indeed misreporting) what is said within a binary (yes/no) paradigm.
The STUC will continue to be open about our position. We will take on the debate and any criticism that comes with it.
However, when we are all seeking a higher quality debate, higher quality reporting would certainly help.
STUC General Secretary
STUC General Secretary
Friday, 7 February 2014
It’s been a momentous and historic week for equality in Scotland. The passing of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill represents a significant landmark in Scottish legislation and mirrors changes in social attitudes which have been on an upward curve since the early 1980’s.
Within a few short decades we have moved away from the criminalisation of homosexuality to accepting LGBT people as being rightfully able to express their love in marriage just as other couples have long taken for granted.
Quite rightly it is a time for celebration.
Yet, whilst we reflect on a victory, in many parts of the world Human and Equal rights for LGBT people are not advancing and in many worrying developments gains that had been made are being rescinded with devastating consequences.
The eyes of the world are now focused on Russia as it gears up for the winter Olympics in Sochi and with this come the added scrutiny of Russia’s duplicitous human rights record.
The introduction of a federal law banning the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors has made it virtually illegal to place same-sex relationships on a level footing with heterosexual ones or to even promote LGBT rights.
The affect has been to further isolate the LGBT community whilst reinforcing an underlying intolerance towards homosexuality, a trend which has been on the rise. This coupled with reports of increased arrests of activists and a stark rise in hate crime motivated by homophobia has served to make an already deteriorating situation worse for LGBT people in Russia.
The STUC LGBT Workers Committee shares the concerns of civil rights groups and campaigners in expressing our disgust at the scenes of violence, reports of torture and ultimately deaths of LGBT individuals and activists.
We cannot allow Sochi and the winter Olympics to be used as a mechanism for the Russian authorities to attempt to sanitise its human rights record. It is vital that we show support during and after the games to enable the LGBT community in Russia to fight this legislation whilst encouraging the Government to refrain from propagating a hostile public perception based on prejudice. To this end we support the actions of activists and those athletes who are openly questioning this repressive legislation and ask that supporters in the UK contact their MP to lobby the Russian ambassador.
Chair of the STUC LGBT Workers Committee.