Category Archives: Miniluv

Bulletins from the Ministry of Love

Man is the cruelest animal, a review of Slave by Mende Nazer

Sometimes I do think for all the advancements of the contemporary world, we are no better than some of the horrors that have lived before us. We can look back at the history of slavery, the slave triangle and all the barbarity that went with it, we can look back with disgust and feel a little bit more evolved, but are we that advanced, are we really that different?

Today, 18 October, marks Anti-Slavery Day, which aims to provide:

…an opportunity to draw attention to the subject and to pressurise government, local authorities, public institutions and private and public companies to address the scale and scope of human trafficking.

This barbaric treatment of human beings is still very much a part of the world we populate. Let’s take a closer look at one story, narrated in the shocking memoir Slave.

slave mende nazer

Imagine in adulthood having to learn how to brush your teeth, buy food and groceries, utilise public transport. Having to completely re-educate yourself in the art of just living, loving, caring, simply being human. This was the task Mende Nazer was faced with when she escaped from being a slave.

Her shocking life story began in the Nuba Mountains, a tranquil, simple existence immersed in nature, farming and storytelling around the fire. Until raiders attacked her village and she was bound into chattel slavery, where people are treated as the personal property of an owner, and are bought and sold as commodities. She was sexually assaulted and sold to an Arab family in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Mende was forced to sleep in a dingy hut and treated inhumanely.

Nietzsche stated that,

Man is the cruelest animal

A dictum that is more than apparent in this tale.

Her captor labelled her as ‘Yebit’, which translates as a girl worthy of no name. Her childhood consisted of cooking, cleaning and looking after children when she was but a child herself. In 2000, Mende was given as a gift to a diplomat in London where she escaped, only to be embroiled in a new struggle for asylum and liberty. Mende Nazer’s harrowing story reminds us we have a moral obligation to ensure this kind of cruelty towards our fellow human beings is wiped out for good. Totally eradicated!

Perhaps, to mark Anti-Slavery Day, have a read of this tale. A disturbing insight, it emphasises the power of human tenacity, the fighting spirit.

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Being mindful

Imagine that your mind is like a computer and you open a window, then another one, then another. The computer may start to slow down a little, struggle to function, then all of a sudden it will completely crash. Blank screen, time to re-boot.

Essentially this could be a metaphor for our way of living. There is no time to pause, no time to reflect. Everything is accessible, every time of day, the machine does not stop. There is a need for instant gratification and we want everything yesterday. We watch what we eat, attend fitness classes, yet how many of us factor into the equation that we also need to look after our mental well-being?

10 October is World Mental Health Day, the annual global celebration of mental health education, awareness and advocacy. The theme for 2015 is Dignity in Mental Health. Sometimes it is not a case of there being an elephant in the room but the whole jungle. Let’s be frank, it is not always all good and as the world seems to be on fast forward, at times the mind is being totally neglected and abused.

I find two people in the public eye are exemplary in shouting out and being proud about mental health, Ruby Wax and Stephen Fry. I used to find Wax quite annoying, possibly because I recognise a lot of my own qualities in her manic, hyper, louder than loud self. However, I tip my corduroy cap at this energised lady in trying earnestly to do what Polonius recommends in Hamlet – to ‘Know thyself.’

ruby wax

The comedienne has done exactly, that going off to Oxford to study Mindfulness with the master of the subject matter, Dr. Mark Williams. Wax bravely tackled her battle with depression and has toured the country discussing the brain and mental health, detailed in her book, ‘Sane New World‘.

It doesn’t matter if you’re famous or live in a mud hut or what culture you’re from: depression loves everyone.

She uses her comic presentation skills to inform, cajole and offer clarity on how our busy, self-critical thoughts can be controlled through re-wiring our thinking.

Stephen Fry is a champion of the human race; his unflinching brutal honesty is inspiring. It takes a courageous individual to reveal such personal vulnerabilities. Manic Depression is a disease that’s little talked about and little understood. In The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, the actor sets out to explore the causes and treatments of a condition that may affect as many as six per cent of the population.

The more people speak up and out, the more the taboo subject of discussing mental health will become the norm. What is the problem, if someone breaks their leg they need to get it re-set and re-constructed? However, as it’s in the mind, people keep quiet.

In this frantic world, this silence is why more and more people are being hit with illness. For me personally, my mental health is essentially like the weather. There are bleak storm clouds all in the sky some days, completely filling the eye’s view. But behind the clouds there is an azure blue sky, it is still there, things do pass.

clouds and sky iona peploe

My mantra used to be its all good. I’d often recite this affirmation when things were problematic. After a while it became like I was on auto pilot, uttering this remark. Sometimes it’s not all good, but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s just plain alright!


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For Aylan Kurdi and all the nameless ones

Me and the toddler made a long journey last week, of around 8,000 miles. For some of it we took the refugee route in reverse: sailing above Budapest before leaving European airspace somewhere over Turkey. We crossed continents, sleeping, eating and watching cartoons, landing feeling a bit disorientated but still in one piece. There was a time when it was a little bumpy and I put out a hand to soothe the boy back to sleep, but I think that was really more to allay my fears than his, as he snoozed on through the turbulence.

He is at that age when he loves all forms of transport, happily watching the planes and trucks, even the baggage cars, as they danced around each other on the runways as we waited to board. We were in the air as the latest news broke of the Syrian children who had died in the waters off Turkey. We missed the debate over whether photographs of their lifeless bodies in the surf were indecent or necessary. I went to bed later having read the news, reflecting that possession of that mauve passport is the highest form of privilege, still unable to imagine what it would be like to put your child into an open boat to cross the Med. Trusting the people you have paid a fortune to that they know what they are doing and that the boat is seaworthy and has enough fuel. Hoping to find more safety and security than you currently had. I couldn’t imagine how you would soothe a scared child over miles of dark seas, without life jackets, knowing there is no chance of rescue, no way to save yourself or them if the worst happens.

And then I read this, by The Reluctant Launderer, who was suffering from no such failure of imagination.

My heart breaks for the parent who helped him get dressed, who chose the t-shirt and the underwear and the shorts, who laced up the shoes.  Who hoped that today would be the day when their lives might begin again after the nightmares and horrors of God-knows-what, and blocked out the other thoughts of What Could Happen.  Who tried to make a game out of getting their 5 year old son into the over-crowded boat, and held on to him as the boat rocked, and sang in his ear and shushed and kissed him as it rocked even more, and held even tighter as they were flipped overboard, and tried to hold him above the waves, kicking and crying and gasping.  And who then – just imagine it – couldn’t hold him any more.

Her words left me in a sobbing heap on the floor for a good while longer than a wannabe Stoic would like to admit to. All I can think to say to the Syrian mothers is that I thank some deity I’m not at all sure I believe in today that you died with your children and don’t have to face life without them. For forcing you into this choice, putting you in a situation where fleeing into danger was the best option, we – the nations that bombed yours without thinking of what came after – failed you in not creating legal options to get you and your families out of the chaos and devastation we helped to create. I am sorry that my country – whose only members able to recall what it is like to live under aerial bombardment are now dying of old age – can’t find more compassion for you than to say ‘sorry, we’re full’ and move on to the next headline.

But perhaps it is time to leave aside the words and move on to action. Anything we can do is small, but there are thousands of small actions happening all around the world, petitions, donations, aid and assistance that will add up to the necessary pressure on the right hands to Bloody Well Sort This Thing Out.

This petition asks Theresa May, UK Home Secretary, to allow sanctuary to those fleeing the conflict in Syria.

Campaigning website 38 degrees has a number of different petitions, separated by local council area, to tell the authorities that refugees are welcome. UK residents, you can search for your area by postcode and then sign.

Donate to MOAS – the Migrant Offshore Aid Station – an organisation which was set up by philanthropists to work with local coastguards and other authorities to rescue stricken migrant boats in the Med.

MSF Sea is running similar operations in the Mediterranean.

These beautiful, happy lads deserved better from us, as do all the nameless, faceless ones who have died trying to have a little of all the things we take for granted: safety, shelter and a peaceful future. In their name, please do whatever you can to ensure they are among the last to wash up on Europe’s shores.

aylan and galip kurdi

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From the Land of Green Ghosts by Pascal Khoo Thwe

Had I not read Emma Larkin’s wonderful Finding George Orwell in Burma in 2013, I wouldn’t have gone looking for further reading and found a list of the author’s recommended books about the country. That would have meant I missed out on Pascal Khoo Thwe’s remarkable, lyrical story of a life that begins in the jungles of Burma before – after a few dizzying turns – depositing him in Cambridge’s hallowed atmosphere.


Despite making bold promises to myself after compiling last year’s reading list, it has taken me close to two months to finish reading this book. Partly a change in available time is to blame, but also because there were passages that defy speeding through, rewarding repeated consideration and a slower pace. Carl Honoré would love it.

That pace is set by the author’s beginnings in tribal lands where the seasons dominate and everything is in tune with the life of the natural world around it. Some nods to modernity have been made, along with the tribe’s enthusiastic conversion to Catholicism, but the older ways operate alongside the new without too much anguish. Surprisingly – although perhaps less so when you learn more of what followed – the days of the British are remembered fondly. Pascal Khoo Thwe’s grandmother was even brought to London to be displayed as one of the ‘giraffe necked women’ and returned from the visit having enjoyed the ‘moving stairs’ that they didn’t need to climb, but full of complaints about the cold.

‘The English are a very strange tribe,’ said Grandma Mu Tha. ‘They paid money just to look at us – they paid us for not working… They say “Hello,” “How are you” and “Goodbye” all the time to one another.’

It is an enjoyable existence, one where uncles are supermen, playing for the town’s football team is the highest honour and wasps are a delicacy. Apart from that last one, it isn’t too far from my own. The dead remain in close proximity to the living, as in other parts of Asia. Death is not something to fear, but more a move to the next stage of life. These words from a funeral which was a blend of Catholic and traditional rites,

Well done, my boy. Well done, Peter Yew, for you have made us proud. You have finished your hunting. Enjoy being with our ancestors for ever; enjoy the banquet with them. They await you, and we will join you when the time comes. Meanwhile tell our ancestors about us, tell them to help us, and to protect us from the evil powers. Ask them to make our land fertile, to bring good weather and rains for us, to make our women fertile. Go my son, go, back to our ancestors. May your journey be gentle and your soul as bright as the stars.

That was one of the particular passages of the book that I read more than once. What better words could be said at the end of a life cut short but one that was lived well.

These ways which have endured for so long are not immediately threatened by the changes in Burma’s power structures as the military dictatorship takes hold slowly. The author’s grandfather and then his father are allowed to retain some vestiges of their tribal authority and so it is perhaps not until he reaches university, in a Mandalay so far off that it feels like another land altogether, that he begins to be exposed to the sufferings of other parts of his country. As a student he is advised to play the game and not question too much:

Remember what your grandfather said about the earth’s being round at school and flat at home. He was a wise man and taught you what you need to know in Burma. It is the same in politics… They may be as ignorant as peasants – but they have the guns. Never, never argue with them.

But he finds it increasingly difficult to engage in the doublethink which is needed to thrive in Burma. Even the university’s buildings, dating from Colonial times, impress upon him that at one point this place of learning sought to encourage an opening of minds and curiosity about the world that his generation is being denied. He is not the only one and, in 1988, protests sweep the country, starting with students before pulling in monks and ordinary people. The disappearance of his girlfriend in sinister circumstances shocks him off the sidelines and in to a more outspoken role, before eventually – inevitably – he is forced to flee for the relative ‘safety’ of the Thai border and the rebel fighters attacking government troops there.

And here this tale might have ended, by stray bullet or landmine, were it not for a chance meeting a few years earlier in a Mandalay restaurant with a Cambridge academic and a scrawled note which somehow reaches him. This contact catapults Pascal Khoo Thwe around the world, away from family, friends and comrades, and into the same misty cold that his grandmother had found so hard to bear. It is a heck of a journey and the reader almost has to keep reminding herself that Thwe is only recounting his first couple of decades.

Learning English and studying for a literature degree are colossal feats in their own rights, becoming a writer who can tell such a captivating tale in so creative and descriptive a manner is another. Mosquitoes are like ‘flying grape-pips blushing with human blood,’ and when he heads into the mountainous jungle, scenes of ‘cool-season flowers, ranging from… varieties of orchid to small white and purple bush-flowers,’ are interrupted by burnt-out villages.

It was a countryside that the hand of war had several times touched.

From his tribal childhood, to gaining maturity during the uprisings before heading to Cambridge, Pascal Khoo Thwe has lived more than one life, none of which I had much experience of. It’s a testament to his faith in ‘freedom and love of life’ that he was able to survive and to record such events not in a flat recounting, but in a tale that lives and breathes with the vitality and character of its writer.

If you are based in the US and wish to purchase the book from an independent bookstore, the link below will take you to IndieBound – a community of independent bookstores. ten minutes hate will receive a small commission if you do. Many thanks!

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Reading to remember

As I read the accounts of survivors this Holocaust Memorial Day, it struck me that many of them came from those who had been children during World War II. One even remembered her sister being born in the camp. Even so, they were saying that this was likely to be the last year they would be fit and well enough to visit Poland for the ceremonies.


As interest in the War started to rise during my childhood, and the survivors began to find some comfort in recounting events long-buried, I read a number of memoirs of the events, both in class and out of it. I probably started with Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, telling of a very ordered, quiet life and home interrupted by derring-do with the Dutch Resistance and eventual imprisonment.

Then I picked out Kitty Hart-Moxon’s record of her Return to Auschwitz from our school library. At the time I was at boarding school and couldn’t contemplate what the death camp showers actually meant or looked like. Gazing up at the institutional shower head above me and taking an extra big gulp of air before turning it on, just in case.

Anne Frank’s story was televised when I was a similar age, able to swoon with her over Peter and chafe at being locked up day after day with her family. I remember thinking how tragic it was that she died so close to the end, that if she could have held out a little longer, food and medicine might have been forthcoming. As if the survival of one diarist might have outweighed those lost. And if it is possible to wish for young Anne’s survival, why not that of all the others?

Then there was Schindler – his Ark first, then List – before a borrowed Primo Levi or two. My favourite being If Not Now, When? perhaps because of its partisans who fought back against the Nazis despite the seeming impossibility of victory at that time. And I notice that across all of these narratives it seems as if we prefer the hopeful outcome. That evil can be defeated s0 its victims can return to ‘normal’. It was difficult to read of Kitty Hart-Moxon dealing with colleagues in the UK who would joke about the tattooed numbers on her arm.

Again, a failure of my imagination. As a child I couldn’t understand how you could escape that from all that horror to die by your own hand, as Levi had done, as one of the characters in the excellent, engrossing film The Counterfeiters does, just minutes after the end of the War. It took further reading and here Maus opened my eyes still wider. Surviving was only a part, not the end. Only perhaps the end of the beginning, as the nightmares didn’t stop when the camps were liberated.

Stupidly, I had always thought Zyklon B a humane, clinical death. The science seduces you into believing it was something like chloroform. Maus knocked that right out of my mind. Art Spiegelman’s use of mice and cats to tell his father’s story life – both during and after the War – makes the brutality worse, perhaps because it reminded me of the humanity of those history tells us should be monsters but aren’t. Instead they were family men and women. Competent officers, effective administrators and clerks, who signed off on mass murder as if it were no more than shipping goods from A to B.

And what of when the goods were human beings? Although most memoirs feature the journeys to the camps, they are usually eclipsed by what is waiting on arrival. Jorge Semprún’s The Cattle Truck (also published as The Long Voyage) opens with 120 men being packed in for five days of hell on the way to another – the camp at Buchenwald. It is one of the most claustrophobic openings to a book I have encountered and completely unforgettable. He uses the time to recount his story to an older man, measuring out the miles in tales of his capture, Resistance life and youth in Spain during the Civil War.

Semprún has written extensively of his deportation to the camp, calling it the defining moment of his life. He also speaks in this interview of the blending of his memories with narrative devices more commonly found in fiction:

… my books are generally both memoirs and novels, both fiction and first-hand testimony. My aim was to create a synthesis of the two genres…

When I was working on the most painful parts of the autobiographical narrative, the ones I had postponed for so long, I forced myself to be as stringent as possible, to be absolutely faithful to the historical truth. I did not want to romanticize any of the details, or to distract the reader with dramatic turns of event or artificial moments of narrative tension. So I decided to use my imagination only when it felt necessary in order to produce a more lucid image of my overall experience of the camp.

Works of imagination have the power to deliver sometimes unfathomable truths to readers. Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home is not entirely a novel of the Holocaust, yet it lurks in the shadows. On the surface, one would think his infidelities, relationship with his daughter and wife are what are pressing on poet JHJ, that and the work he is supposed to be doing while he dozes in the sun. Women weave around him – daughter, neighbour, wife, lover, friend – but it is the memories of Joe’s mother and sister that endure and prove fundamental.

In talking of what has been lost, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated captured the lost shtetl life while The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – which I read in a sticky hot Bangkok December – Michael Chabon’s tale of an imagined Alaskan town peopled by many of the six million, having escaped there in the Thirties, brought a different perspective. I seem to recall (although searching can’t track it down) the author saying that the Holocaust had robbed him of the great networks of European Jewish life: the uncles and aunts, great-grandparents, cousins, friends of the family and distant relatives, that would have been his otherwise.

Seventy years on, what we sometimes think of as historical events, read in textbooks and ‘witnessed’ at arm’s length via films and memoirs, is still part of the unspoken horror of family remembrance, containing the power to warp and destroy relationships down through generations. As even the children of the Holocaust pass into old age and beyond, soon all we will be left with are their stories and their conviction that to know the truth is to guard against it happening again.


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A sense of belonging

In the coming year, I really want someone to stand up – and I really hope it will be Ed Miliband – to say something along the lines of: I’m a migrant, you’re a migrant, some of my best friends are migrants. Some came as children, some fleeing, others as students. They have brought things to us and have adapted to the ways in which we do things, strange though we have sometimes found each other.

Some of them came further back in the past, to fight alongside us when things were dark. They fought against an ideology that said that some people were made superior by blood and biology and that put millions to death to preserve this nonsensical pseudo-scientific theory of racial purity.

We, the descendents of those that fought together against it, refute that ideology completely. We know that although we are an island, we have never been insular. Rather, our influence has always extended beyond our shores. Our language has travelled around the globe and, despite the fact that our influence has not always been benign, our hope is that our words can become something of a unifier.

What would Britain be without immigration? Perhaps our roads would be muddier and wonkier, our castles made of wood, not stone, and large swathes of it might be forest, not farmland. More recent arrivals have brought food, music and literature: the joys of life. Migrants, their children and grandchildren, have nursed us through sickness, taught our children and built our houses. They serve as magistrates, stand as MPs, read the nightly news. They are as bound into the fabric of our country as a plant from the Americas is to our soil and our diets.

Anybody with any sense can see that strength comes from this, not some outdated, horrendous notion of ‘purity’ or ‘separateness’, but a blending and mixing of backgrounds, experiences and histories that creates a patchwork, linking us to Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. We are joined via great-grandparents who perhaps had to leave or perhaps chose to, and decided to come – perhaps a little reluctantly – to the industrial powerhouse that we were, leaving behind more pleasing scenes that would never entirely leave their hearts.

Perhaps those migrants came because they believed us when we spoke of our love of fair play and justice, of ‘live and let live’. They might have come because we never surrendered, never gave in to the jack-boots, because we fought on the beaches. That makes it even more ridiculous to me that today, the political descendents of those who did take money from fascist dictators, who donned their black shirts and silver flashes, who shouted ‘Death to Jews’ or trumpeted ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’, now seek to convince us that they hold the key to what Britishness is and that they are the keepers of the flame. It is rubbish.

Not our Briton of the Year

Not our Briton of the Year

It doesn’t matter if you drive a white van or a vintage Jag, if you believe that there is a ‘THEY’, who can be ‘SENT BACK’ to some imaginary ‘OVER THERE’ and all problems will be magicked away with them, you are being sold a pup. The problems that afflict our society don’t stem from Europe or the Middle East, or anywhere else. They don’t come from people of a different colour, or religion, speaking a different language to you. They have been caused by mostly old, mostly white, mostly men – certainly greedy – taking more than they are entitled to and leaving the rest of us to fight over the scraps. Migrants didn’t crash the banks, vote to sell off the NHS to healthcare companies they own shares in or spend your money on duck homes or moat cleaning.

We can continue down this road to the end, refuse every visa to every scientist researching medical cures, every student attracted to our universities, break apart more families, close the doors and say no more. Our country would be no richer and certainly far poorer. Or we can draw a line, say no more ground will be given to the racists and nationalists. Of course we need to set criteria, but they will be fairly applied. Of course we need to verify information, but you will be treated with dignity while we do. If you are looking for a base for study, for innovation, for entrepreneurship, to love who you want to, to raise a family in peace and freedom, as so many have done before you, join us. Welcome. We come from many places, but we all belong here.


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Peter Tatchell Flagship lecture: the unfinished battle for LGBT equality

The University of Liverpool continued its celebrated Flagship public lecture series in May with ‘The Unfinished Battle for LGBT Equality: The flaws of same-sex marriage law and other inequalities that remain to be overturned.’

LGBT Flagship logoThe event was hosted by The School of Law and Social Justice. The talk was given by the exemplary activist, Peter Tatchell. Tatchell last visited Liverpool in 1984. A very different social and political landscape.

Peter Tatchell

Peter was born in 1952 in Melbourne, Australia, and has been campaigning since 1967 on issues of human rights, democracy, civil liberties, LGBT equality and global justice.

In an interview with ten minutes hate after his lecture, Peter Tatchell discussed his years of campaigning and the influences that have shaped his outlook:

Parliament has usually been the last place to get the message. It’s taken extra parliamentary action to push MPs to legislate equality and civil rights. My inspirations are people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, they pioneered non-violent direct action as a way of pushing human rights issues onto the public and political agenda. Their strategy was very effective, the strategy I sought to pursue pushing forward LGBT rights.

10mh: Can you discuss your early campaign work with OutRage! and  its impact on LGBT rights?

With a protest every other week, it helped normalise LGBT issues, raising public awareness about the scale of discrimination, putting political leaders under pressure to change their policies.

10mh: UKIP and other far right parties are gaining votes due to public disenchantment with mainstream political parties. What would your advice be to non-voters?

Support for more conservative right-wing parties is still significant, a worrying trend if that is sustained over an extended period of time. The support UKIP is getting is a protest vote, people disaffected by the main parties.

My response is if people are disaffected by the main parties, why not vote for a more progressive party like the Greens? It is worrying that people who are disenchanted by the political system choose to gravitate towards a party that certainly has a lot of prejudiced members, even if their policies are not avowedly negative.

10mh: The T in LGBT is sometimes overlooked, what are your views on this?

Transgender rights are the new frontier, the new front line: gender identity, not just for Trans people, for everyone. ‘Behave a certain way because you are a man, because you are a woman’ impacts on the spontaneous nature that we may have.

People should be free to express their gender and sexuality in whatever way they see appropriate, we need to break down masculine/feminine – it inhibits people from fulfilling their true potential.

10mh: Some Universities have allowed far right Islamist preachers, or hate clerics, into campuses to provide lectures on the grounds that they can talk but cannot preach hate crime. Is this acceptable?

These organisations have a right to hold their own meetings in their own premises or to hire a hotel but they certainly should not be given publicly funded premises like Universities.

Those who host meetings and insist women are segregated from men, extremist preachers who advocate killing gay people should not be allowed to speak. The Federation for Student Islamic Societies is not doing enough to block those speakers and not practice gender segregation.

Universities are supposed to be places of enlightenment and equality. It clearly sends the wrong signal – making LGBT people feel under threat in some universities.  Some of these extreme groups advocate punishment for women who have sex out of marriage who are not veiled, also preach that Muslims who turn away from their faith should be killed.  These kinds of reactionary views need to be challenged and blocked from taking place on campus.

Hate preachers should not be given any platform, no place at a university. Organisations like the BNP, Nick Griffin, given his past record, even if he was going to talk about his love of flower arranging.

Fascism has no place in a University. Free speech does not include inciting hatred and violence to other human beings.

The lecture looked at the significant legal LGBT changes in the last decade. Celebrating victories that have been won only by a collective effort and illustrating the work that still needs to be done.

Peter Tatchell 2

It is assumed that the United Kingdom has always been at the forefront of positive change; however, it was alarming to note that most aspects of gay life remained criminal until recent years. Tatchell highlighted how in 1999 the UK had the most anti-gay laws in the world. The Draconian law that imprisoned Oscar Wilde in 1895 for gross indecency was only repealed in 2003. A law against buggery that was drawn up in 1533 was only repealed eleven years ago, under the term ‘unnatural offences’. Even the very language of the law was bigoted.

Surprisingly, the 1949 Marriage Act was the UK’s main marriage law. It does not stipulate that marriage partners have to be male and female.  In the early 1970s, there was no ban on same-sex marriage: it was de facto legal. The prohibition was introduced in response to the emergence of the gay liberation movement and the fear that a lack of legal impediment would allow transgender and same-sex couples to marry. Marriage between two people of the same gender was outlawed under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

Realistically it would have made perfect sense for the government to just revert the seventies law, instead of creating a new one. So-called ‘Gay Marriage laws’ still have discriminative elements attached. With regards to pension schemes, the bill does not grant LGBT married couples the same entitlements as married heterosexuals. It allows companies to limit surviving same-sex spouses’ pension payouts to post-2005 accrual only, even if the deceased partner had been paying into their pension since 1970. This perpetuates pension inequalities enshrined in civil partnership law.

The talk underlined campaigning that still needs to be undertaken.
Schools should be a safe environment. All forms of prejudice need to be challenged. Bullying in schools needs to be tackled, specifically addressing LGBT. Children are not born bigoted, they become bigoted and this should be challenged. Lessons in equality and diversity should be required by law in primary schools onwards. Tatchell proposed that equality and diversity need to be exam subjects and put into school reports, as important as core subjects. Sex and relationship education should be a mandatory requirement.

Training is the key and it has to come from the top, Michael Gove, it’s not fair for teachers to just know.

The speaker also highlighted the mistreatment of LGBT refugees in asylum detention centres, with just 14 days to fast track their asylum case. A process which ignores the time it takes to collate evidence. The aim seems to be to fail as many refugees as possible to appease The Daily Mail. It is a sad indictment of our society and values that questions are proposed to asylum seekers like ‘do you read GT magazine?’ or ‘Do you go to Heaven nightclub?’ Stereotypes being crassly applied.

The assumption that you can tell a person’s sexuality on the grounds of how somebody looks is ridiculous. Comments like, ‘she doesn’t look like a lesbian!’ or ‘We don’t believe you are gay’. It is a horrifying factor that people are photographing and or filming themselves having sex to prove that they are of a certain sexual orientation. Some of the cultures are very private and nudity is inappropriate.

The coalition government promised it would end some of the injustices but have only conducted some home office training on equality. This needs to change.

Then there is the work to be done with football. The Football Association is not using its power and wealth in an exemplary way. Positive ways forward could include putting adverts with anti-homophobic slogans in programmes. A video needs to be made with famous footballers talking about homophobia.

Homophobic hate crimes still exist 1 in 3 people have been subjected to insults, abuse or threats. In London in the last year there were over 100 homophobic attacks and that’s just the ones that were actually reported. So it is still a major problem. All hate crime should be unacceptable in a democratic civilised society.

To help combat these battles, he urges people to vote for LGBT friendly candidates to wipe out the vicious behaviour of the likes of UKIP and the BNP.

The young LGBT are growing up in a Britain worlds apart from the one of the past. A world where there was hardly any LGBT visibility and no out public gay figures. So essentially we have moved mountains but there are still a few hills. Tatchell encourages solidarity and community activism as the way forward:

I am one, we are many.

The Peter Tatchell Foundation (PTF) seeks to promote and protect the human rights of individuals, communities and nations, in the UK and internationally, in accordance with established national and international human rights law.

Meriel Box, Peter Tatchell and John Maguire

Peter Tatchell is a pioneer and a distinctive voice in British politics. His portfolio of campaigning includes opposing Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988,the controversial addition of Section 2A to the Local Government Act 1986 (affecting England, Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland), enacted on 24 May 1988.

The amendment stated that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. It was repealed on 21 June 2000 in Scotland as one of the first pieces of legislation enacted by the new Scottish Parliament, and on 18 November 2003 in the rest of Great Britain by section 122 of the Local Government Act 2003.

Tatchell has boosted tolerance and understanding, a human rights approach to personal but political beliefs.

  • In 2009, he co-proposed a UN Global Human Rights Index, to measure and rank the human rights record of every country – with the aim of creating a human rights league table to highlight the best and worst countries and thereby incentivise governments to clean up their record and improve their human rights ranking.
  • He coordinated the Equal Love campaign from 2010, in a bid to challenge the UK’s twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. The following year, he organised four gay couples and four heterosexual couples to file a case in the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law is unlawful under Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • He has proposed an internationally binding UN Human Rights Convention enforceable through both national courts and the International Criminal Court; a permanent rapid-reaction UN peace-keeping force with the authority to intervene to stop genocide and war crimes; and a global agreement to cut military spending by 10 percent to fund the eradication of hunger, disease, illiteracy, unemployment and homelessness in the developing world.

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