The motto ‘Love to Learn, Learn to Love’ was proudly displayed on the LSBU Pride bus organised by SONet and I am happy to say that I stood in solidarity with my colleagues on Saturday during London Pride.
Pride events are spectacles - brilliant and outrageous costumes and crowds lining the streets cheering and celebrating with us. Pride is an occasion for celebrating everything that is good about being a human being and for me it represents a high form of understanding that celebrates equality of all with no oppression, no difference, no shame or guilt. Pride events all over the globe are important politically and last year one of the images struck a chord with me – bus number 49 with ‘Remembering Orlando’ and ‘Love Wins’ as its destination.
(Photo: Dr Shaminder Takhar)
‘Love Wins’ is a popular motto and appeared in a number of places on Saturday. However, in some countries, those involved in setting up Pride events are under the constant threat of arrest, violence and even death.
Anyone who thinks that people aren’t capable of working together because of preconceived ideas about one another should watch the film Pride, which is set in 1984 at the height of the miners’ strike. The film depicts the story of the Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners group, who raised over £11,000 to support the year-long UK miners’ strike. It is a perfect example of two disparate groups coming together to work with one another.
For me, the Pride march is a time to celebrate and remember those without civil liberties, such as same sex marriage, around the globe and to stand in solidarity with them.
One week before Pride, photos appeared on the front page of newspapers on 1 July, showing scenes of celebration of the legalisation of same sex marriage in Germany. The decision came as a result of a hasty vote in parliament, despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s lack of support.
It has been greeted with jubilation and social media has been awash with hashtags celebrating a landmark victory. This month is also an important landmark in the history of sexual rights in England and Wales, marking the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality – so you could say we’ve come a long way with civil partnerships, gender recognition and same sex marriage.
Europe has often been thought of as the vanguard of equal rights for the LGBT+ population. However, the road for liberal ideas that promote equality and justice has been bumpy and continues to be so. Sexual orientation sharply divides people’s opinions, seen in the mass protests against same sex marriage in France for example.
Opposition has also been seen in Northern Ireland and with the Russian Government’s decision to pass ‘anti-gay’ legislation to protect children from non-traditional sexual relationships. More recently, in the Russian province of Chechnya there have been regressive developments which include the persecution of gay men.
On a global level, the advocacy of human rights varies - some countries are advanced while others are reneging on initial policies for equality. We know that violation of human rights based on sexual orientation is not a new thing with examples of rape, forced medical treatment to ‘cure’ homosexuality, imprisonment, torture and the death penalty recorded by Amnesty International twenty years ago. It has urged governments to implement legislation that brings different countries into line with international human rights standards, in particular to decriminalise homosexuality. However, the moralist/religious stand in countries such as India and Uganda has eroded human rights by reverting back to discriminatory laws criminalising same-sex relations, despite the efforts of activists.
On the other hand, luckily, support is also offered to people in times of need. From media outlets, who changed their logos to rainbow colours during Russia’s crackdown on gay athletes at the winter Olympics in Sochi, to the Houses of Parliament, which lit up in a rainbow to celebrate London Pride this month, and the BBC’s ‘Gay Britannia’ season across their radio and television channels.
As a parting note, for any Dr Who fans out there, a couple of weeks ago the Doctor’s female gay assistant Bill, commented on the Time Lord being flexible on gender. The Doctor replied that the civilisation he comes from is “beyond your petty obsession with gender and associated stereotypes” – what a brilliant statement!