Still fighting for Equality: 40 years on from the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland
Friday marks the 40th anniversary of court decision of Dudgeon v the United Kingdom. This significant decision paved the way to the UK Parliament decriminalising sexual acts between men in 1982 and was the first time that a complaint about sexual orientation discrimination reached the ECHR. This decision changed the lives for many LGBTQIA+ people in Northern Ireland and it is important that we mark this event.
Speaking on the anniversary Aisling Twomey, Policy and Advocacy Manager with The Rainbow Project said “We owe a lot to our LGBTQIA+ pioneers such as Jeff and others, who when campaigning for decriminalisation (of homosexuality) were routinely rounded up, questioned and had their homes raided.”
“While Northern Ireland has changed significantly within the last 40 years, there are still many inequalities experienced by LGBTQIA+ people and a lack of visibility of LGBTQIA+ people in public life.
“LGBTQIA+ People are still afraid to hold their loved one’s hand in public and feel they need to change their behaviour in public to avoid possibly being targeted for their sexual orientation and gender identity. Fears of violence, intimidation and harassment remain a reality for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex and asexual people across Northern Ireland and beyond.”
“Despite significant barriers to equality in NI, we must recognise the substantial change that has been achieved. Through effective campaigning and non-stop advocacy by the LGBTQIA+ community we have seen changes to adoption regulations in 2013, the introduction of the disregard process for historical convictions in 2016, reforms to the blood ban in 2017 & 2020 and the introduction of Equal Marriage in 2020.”
John O’Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project said: “LGBTQIA+ people are still facing discrimination in their workplaces. They still face discrimination when accessing education, health and social care and many public services.
“And many people still facing rejection or hostility from their family, when they come out as LGBTQIA+ and our community remains invisible to too many policy makers and service providers.”
“Most alarming has been the ongoing attacks across social and wider media on our trans and non-binary community. We see how the same twisted messages which were used to condemn gay people and incite fear of our community are being used to target trans/non-binary people, questioning their existence and ignoring their lived experiences. We have seen an 16% increase in transphobic Hate crime across the UK and a media that is obsessed with a negative portrayal of trans and non-binary people.”
“Trans and Non-Binary people in Northern Ireland are being denied the right to access healthcare, to have a simple process to the right to legally change their name and gender from those that were assigned to them at birth. The UK government have not taken the final decisions following their consultation on how to reform the Gender Recognition Act and have rolled back on support on proposed reforms such as Self-ID.”
“While today, we reflect on the 40th Anniversary of a decision that changed the lives of LGBTQIA+ people in Northern Ireland for the better. We know there is much still to do before we can say there is full equality. We will continue the fight for equality and press policy- and decision-makers at all levels to do what they can to promote full inclusion and respect for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people in Northern Ireland,” added John Doherty.