Landmark Report on the Status of Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals

The Equality Authority today launched a new report entitled ‘Implementing Equality for Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals’. The Equality Authority was assisted in the preparation of this report by an advisory committee involving gay and lesbian organisations, the social partners and representatives of Government Departments.

The recommendations made by the Equality Authority provide an agenda for action in addressing gay, lesbian and bisexual disadvantage in such areas as education, training, employment, services, health, support networks and community development. Key strategies recommended in the Report to address this disadvantage include:

  • placing the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual people at the heart of policy making and public provision.
  • building a participation by lesbian, gay and bisexual organisations in decisions that affect these communities
  • providing training for policy makers and service providers on issues affecting gay, lesbian, gay and bisexual people

“This report affords a new visibility to the experience, situation and identity of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in our community. It establishes an agenda for change that requires implementation if our ambition for greater equality is to be realised. In this way we can seek an end to violence, hostility and harassment experienced by lesbians, gays and bisexuals on the streets, at work or even in school. In this way we can move away from false assumptions of heterosexuality and celebrate a diversity of sexual orientations. This requires a new recognition under the law for gay and lesbian couples, new investment in gay, lesbian and bisexual organisations and new policies and programmes in the provision of education, training and health”, states Niall Crowley, CEO, Equality Authority.

Dr. Maureen Gaffney, Chairperson National Economic and Social Forum warmly welcomed this important and substantive report. “In terms of new legislation, new strategies and new policy mechanisms, Ireland is now leading the equality agenda in Europe. The goal is simple: to help shape a society where difference can be acknowledged without fear, be valued and accommodated. Yet, despite the many advances, there is still a community of Irish men and women, from all walks of life, who continue to suffer significant discrimination and exclusion from full citizenship – those whose sexual orientation happens to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.

There are still Irish people who are afraid to openly acknowledge this core part of their personal identity, who don’t feel valued or accommodated by the larger society. This report sets out a comprehensive and challenging agenda for the full inclusion of that community to Irish society. It’s surely time we began the work”.

At the launch of the Report, Ailbhe Smyth of the Women’s Education, Research and Resource Centre, UCD stated that it is “a landmark in the history and status of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Ireland, and a crucial step forward on the path to creating a truly equal and more open society”.

The National Economic and Social Forum has agreed to progress the recommendations of this report by developing an implementation initiative with Government Departments. Niall Crowley highlights that “the potential impact of this report is considerably enhanced by this decision of the NESF – it usefully reflects the commitment made by the social partners in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness”.

Ends

Implementing Equality for Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals

Background Notes for Editors

The Report of the Equality Authority on Implementing Equality for Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals seeks a visibility for gay, lesbian and bisexual issues in the wider equality strategies and initiatives being pursued across Irish Society in the work of the Equality Authority (EA). The Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 enables the EA to promote equality for the gay, lesbian and bisexual community in terms of their experience, situation and identity.

The extent of discrimination and exclusion experienced by the gay, lesbian and bisexual community is clearly established in this report. This hostility, prejudice and anti-gay sentiment takes numerous forms.

  • Workplace – exclusion and harassment at work of gays, lesbians and bisexuals, discrimination in relation to promotions and working conditions, and dismissal solely because of their sexual orientation.
  • Education – bullying and harassment, isolation, depression and poor self-esteem leading to poor educational attainment and early school leaving.
  • Violence – the experience of Irish gay, lesbian and bisexual people reflect that of their counterparts throughout the world. European surveys have demonstrated that levels of violence directed against gay, lesbian and bisexuals are up to three times higher than those experienced by the population as a whole.
  • Health – some doctors and nurses can be insensitive to gay, lesbian and bisexual patients and exclude same sex partners from diagnosis and treatment discussions.
  • Partnership rights – the lack of recognition for gay and lesbian couples under the law, because legally their relationships do not exist leads to exclusion and inequality.

The invisibility of gay, lesbian and bisexuals and assumptions of heterosexuality in service design and provision has debilitating consequences in a broad range of areas such as housing, education, health, employment and training.

In this report the Equality Authority has identified the way forward via three key elements for change to eliminate discrimination and promote equality for gay, lesbian and bisexuals

  • Mainstreaming – This is an approach where organisations commit to seeking equality for lesbian, gays and bisexuals and to ensuring that decisions made reflect this commitment. Mainstreaming gay, lesbian and bisexual needs involves ensuring that their particular needs are met in legislation, public policies, programmes and projects.
  • Participation – This means ensuring that the gay, lesbian and bisexual community participate in decisions that impact on them. This involves the provision of resources and ongoing development to empower these communities and their organisations at local and national levels. This will ensure the active and visible participation of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in planning, policy making and the negotiation of change.
  • Training – Training of staff by employers and service providers to promote an awareness of gay, lesbian and bisexual issues will build inclusivity both within the workplace and in service provision. Training supports are also required to ensure the full and effective participation of gay, lesbian and bisexual communities in decision making fora.

The report proposes actions and approaches for all sectors of society to bring about the positive inclusion of lesbian, gays and bisexuals. Practical proposals include :

  1. Empowerment – gay, lesbian and bisexual people should be a named and resourced target group in development programmes at national and local levels. This would entail the provision of funding to enable gay, lesbian and bisexual groups to organise, to articulate their interests and to develop services within their own communities.
  2. Partnership rights – The right to nominate a partner (with equal rights to those available to married heterosexuals) should be extended to same sex couples. This will have implications in areas such as inheritance, taxation, pension and health entitlements. Legal and policy codes should be altered to ensure that references to the family recognise the diversity of family forms, households and couple relationships.
  3. Health – the Department of Health and Children and the Health Boards should ensure that gay, lesbian and bisexual peoples needs are mainstreamed into the design and delivery of services. Gay, lesbian and bisexual people should be the subject of specifically targeted initiatives within all health strategies.
  4. Education – Bullying and harassment policies and procedures should be reviewed by educational institutions with a view to eradicating homophobic bullying. Training should be provided for staff and information for students on gay lesbian and bisexual issues and addressing harassment of gay, lesbian and bisexual students. Visibility of gay, lesbian and bisexual issues should be incorporated into RSE, CPSE and SPHE programmes.
  5. Youth Services – the VECs and the Department of Education and Science should ensure that adequate provision for young gay, lesbian and bisexual people is included in the county – wide three year youth service provision plans. Gay, lesbian and bisexual organisations should be resourced by youth work organisations to provide alternative social venues for young gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
  6. Employment – employers should develop and implement comprehensive employment equality policies that specifically address the needs of gay, lesbian and bisexual workers. Equality Review of enterprises and Action Plans should be developed by employers to examine workplace policies, practices and procedures to ensure they assist the process of inclusion of gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
  7. Services – homelessness services should be sensitive to the particular circumstances of young gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
  8. Violence – resources should be targeted to lesbian and gay support groups to develop victim support services within the gay, lesbian and bisexual community.
  9. Media – The media should play roles in addressing prejudice against gay, lesbian and bisexual people and in affirming difference so as to contribute to an increased and positive visibility for gay, lesbian and bisexual life, interests and perspectives.
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