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LGBT+ hate attack: Schools ‘must teach relationship education’

Councillors debate LGBT+ rights after Pride march

16 July, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Former mayor Richard Cotton: ‘If you had told me that me 20 years ago that I’d live to see a Conservative government enacting gay marriage I’d have asked you what you were smoking?’

SCHOOLS must be free to teach about all kinds of relationships to break down prejudice towards the LGBT+ community, councillors have warned in the wake of a bloody attack on two women which shocked the nation.

Camden Council held a 60-minute debate on protecting the rights of gay, lesbian and transsexual residents on Monday, as a follow-up to its delegation to last week’s Pride march.

Council leader Georgia Gould speaking at the meeting

It was the first time the council, as an organisation, was officially represented at the central London event, and the unity across the Town Hall chamber followed the attacks on two women who had been beaten on a bus in West Hampstead after refusing to kiss each other on the demand of a group of teenagers or young men.

Nobody has so far been charged for the assault or robbery.

The photo of the two women hurt on the bus sparked outrage when it was shared last month and has led to warnings about complacency in the battle against homophobia.

The shocking attack in West Hampstead

Hate crime against the LGBT+ community has increased in Camden over the last year by more than a third.

Former mayor Labour councillor Richard Cotton, who is gay, told the meeting: “If you had told me that me 20 years ago that I’d live to see a Conservative government enacting gay marriage I’d have asked you what you were smoking. But it’s still shocking that there is hatred, that there was the violent attack on the two young women on the 31 bus in our borough, which I think shook all of us.”

He added: “That the suspects are 15-year-old boys proves the need beyond peradventure for relationship education, and the need to face down anyone who stands in the way of that.”

Camden’s culture chief Councillor Jonathan Simpson, who is also gay, said: “Society has gone a long way, but there is more to do. In Birmingham, at the moment, we’ve had a situation in which primary schools are trying to teach about tolerance; just to kids, about diversity. And they are facing protests nearly every day outside.”

He added: “It’s depressing to think one local Labour MP would say the protesters are right to do that, and even more shameful that one of the people who stood to be the Conservative Party leader actively supported them. I’m really proud to say that Birmingham City Council and indeed the government have rightfully tried to enforce the Equality Act to enable primary schools to continue to teach things.”

Tessa Havers-Strong, from forum+, which helps LGBT+ people deal with harassment and supports those going through difficulties in Camden, said: “The acceptance of the LGBT community in Camden goes from strength to strength, however much still needs to be done. LGBT people face harassment and abuse on a daily basis, be it on the streets or in the neighbourhoods where they live. During 2018/19, forum + offered advice and support to more than 130 people who had experineced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia. Most of the abuse comprised of verbal harassment at or near where our clients live.”

Tessa Havers-Strong from forum+

She added: “The council is working hard to tackle anti-social behaviour and to improve community cohesion. In my view, one of the most important pieces of work that needs doing is in schools, and that work helps prevent the prejudice and attitudes forming in the first place.”

Council leader Georgia Gould told the chamber: “This morning I met with one of the two young women who suffered the awful misogynistic and homophobic attack on one of our buses, and talked about her experiences and she really had two messages for us. The first was that her story was just one of so many attacks and harassment that happens in our community.”

She added: “It got a lot of attention – but there are so many stories that aren’t told, and so many people who aren’t able to advocate for themselves and don’t make it into the media. And she said we need to make sure we are investing in advocacy. I know that the forum+ does some amazing work in that space already but it’s so important that we, as allies, are standing up and playing that advocacy role and recognising just how much of an issue it is.”

She has appointed backbench councillor Rishi Madlani to be the council’s new LGBT+ champion.

Oliver Cooper with fellow Tory councillor Maria Higson

Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper, who was on the Pride march holding the council’s banner, said: “We must do everything we can do to be a cohesive, united borough and be a beacon to other places in the country, where there aren’t the progressive councillors and opinions we have here.”

He added: “We sent [on the Pride march] an undeniable signal that we are better with inclusivity, we are celebratory of the freedom to be who we are and the freedom to love who we love – and that is undeniable and non-negotiable and cannot be take away from us.”

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