Memorandum submitted by David
Mason (E 65)
Equality Bill - Pernicious problem
of homophobic bullying.
I am writing as an advocate of equality and diversity, but with a particular
concern to eradicate the problem of homophobic bullying in schools and in the
workplace. To this end I welcome the Equality Bill, but feel that to be
effective provisions to promote equality on the ground of sexual orientation
should be implemented to the fullest possible extent. All publicly funded or
supported organisations should be obliged to comply.
Homophobic bullying is believed to be the second most common form of bullying
in school, after bullying about being fat. In fact the Equalities Review Interim Report (March 2006 - pdf file 470k) at page 40 stated "one issue has come
through very clearly in the responses to our call for evidence. This concerns
the seriousness and impact of homophobic bullying at school."
In a speech made on 27th November 2008, Trevor Phillips
said "Across the entire equalities and human rights agenda, homophobic
bullying has emerged as one of the strongest themes for us. We know it's
spreading across our schools and workplaces. When my colleagues gave me the
numbers it was staggering..."
But despite the seriousness of the problem, school teachers are by no means
united in condemning homophobia, and some have even been known to participate
in the bullying.
What is needed to stamp out homophobic bullying for good? Like racism, it will
be very difficult to stamp it out completely. Nevertheless, a zero-tolerance
approach to racism in society has been a significant factor in reducing racist
bullying to a fraction of the levels which existed in the 1970's and 1980's.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission told me on 6th February: ".... our
work in the lead up to the single equality duty will have a strong focus on
ensuring the forthcoming positive duty on sexual orientation can be implemented
effectively by public authorities, including schools in order to ensure a
holistic approach is taken to tackle the endemic problem of homophobic
Role of broadcasting organisations.
The media is vital in setting society's norms for promoting inclusiveness and
diversity. It is worrying that some broadcasters have reportedly asked to be
excluded from the proposed duty to promote equality, and also from the
Although Channel 4 has behaved by and large in a responsible way in respect of
LGBT representation, the same has not been true of the BBC. Regarding Jonathan
Ross's comments on Radio 2 (9th May 2009) the EHRC, in an email to me dated 2nd
June 2009 said " ... I would agree with you that the BBC should
recognise the hurt that the kind of statement made by Mr. Ross could cause to gay
and lesbian people." The BBC however continues to defend Ross's
Late last year the Corporation closed down some of its children's message
boards intended for kids to provide each other with peer support. Kids were
very unhappy with the board closures and expressed their dismay on one of the remaining message
boards. The CBBC Bullying message board, was one of the boards
closed down. A previously conducted study of the board messages had indicated
strong evidence that messages about homophobic bullying had been filtered out.
In fact I examined all messages posted on that board between July 2006 and July
2008, and found none relating to the issue.
Guardian reported on 29th April 2009 that broadcasters fear the new
bill would force them to include 'quotas' of ethnic minority actors in shows.
According to The Guardian "Both
broadcasters have made their fears known to the government, while the Conservatives's culture spokesman, Jeremy Hunt, has also
intervened, writing to the culture secretary, Andy Burnham, for clarification.
... Today, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it was in
discussions with the broadcasters about the legislation, which could see them
added to the list of exempted organisations."
These are, in my opinion disingenuous
politically motivated scare tactics instigated by those opposed to the concept of
a duty to promote equality. There have been, as far as I know, no problems with
the currently existing duties to promote equality in the fields of race, gender
Television and broadcasters generally are vital in promoting a tolerant
society, and I very much hope that, like other public authorities, they will
also be required to adhere to the proposed duty in the Bill to promote