A new strategy to make lives of LGBTI+ people safer and better

ireland lgbti strategy (Image: Mark Pollock)

Ireland’s LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy comprises four pillars and more than 100 actions.

Ireland’s legislation has recognised marriage equality since 2015, but LGBTI+ community is still facing issues that prevent them from thriving, the Irish government claims in its new inclusion strategy.

The strategy acknowledges not only a number of structural issues that hinder LGBTI+ people from achieving their full potential, but also a risk that Irish society may believe this minority has achieved equality.

“I consider it important that this strategy should provide the framework for action to enable LGBTI+ people to feel safe and secure as they go about their daily lives,” Minister for Justice and Equality Charles Flanagan said.

It includes 108 actions divided into four pillars: visibility, equality, health and safety to support equality. The ministry will also allocate more than €900,000 to LGBTI+ initiatives. The measures outlined are intended to be transformed into daily life by 2021.

High hopes

Although LGBTI+ people in Ireland still look around if they want to hold hands, or kiss their partners, Ireland has come a long way. It decriminalised homosexuality in 1993 and adopted several equality legislations, including the 2015 Marriage Act and the 2015 Gender Recognition Act.

Last summer, the 2018-2020 National LGBTI+ Youth Strategy was launched. A few months later, works on a broader inclusion strategy also began.

“LGBT Ireland has been very involved with the consultations that have helped form this strategy,” the national support service for LGBT people, founded in 2010, claimed on its blog.

Public consultations were held across Ireland, in Dublin, Cork, Dundalk, Galway and Limerick.

“We have worked closely with the LGBTI+ community to identify the barriers to full participation in Irish society that remain, and it is clear that we have more work to do,” said David Stanton, the Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration.

He, however, added communities can also play an active role in breaking down the barriers against LGBTI+ people. The first review of how successful the strategy will be takes place later in 2020.

“We are hopeful that the strategy will have a significant impact for the rights and well-being of LGBTI+ people in Ireland,” LGBT Ireland said.

The Equality Authority, now Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, estimated 10% of the population were gay, lesbian, and bisexual in its 2002 Implementing Equality for LGB People. Based on the latest census, this would give us the figure of 458,825 LGB people.

Works have begun

Recently, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) published data on equality and discrimination, which shows that LGBTI+ reported discrimination most often at 33.2%. The group was followed by people from non/white ethnic backgrounds with 33.1%, unemployed, 30.2% and non-Irish, 26.7%.

Fighting unfavourable statistics and driving forward to equality, Ireland now has five different strategies, focusing on different societal groups. When Minister Flanagan officially presented the newest strategy, on November 28, he said the end goal is full equality for LGBTI+ people.

“The aim is for Ireland to be a place where everyone, regardless of their sexuality, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, can reach their full potential to live healthy, safe and fulfilling lives and participate fully in Ireland’s social, economic, cultural, and political life,” he said.

The strategy touches on a number of issues, including older LGBTI+, health and well-being, rural isolation, migrants and asylum seekers, and workplace inclusion, which were raised during public consultations and workshops.

In 2019, the ministry is aiming to work on almost 50 actions, most of them falling under the visibility and health pillars.

Ireland as a LGBTI+ tourist destination

The Burning Issues 2 survey from 2016, carried out among 2,612 LGBT people in Ireland, found that sexuality, gender acceptance and oppression are the biggest issues for the community. Moreover, most respondents said there is not enough LGBT support and community services in their local areas.

The “visible and included” pillar of the strategy, says there is a “dearth of visible LGBTI+ people in elected office and across public life.” Hence, the strategy aims to promote LGBTI+ people and topics within the school curriculum and Irish culture to tackle the worries of LGBTI+ in Ireland.

VISIBLE AND INCLUDED (some of the actions to be taken by 2020)

Identify key large-scale events each year to promote LGBTI+ visibility.

Explore opportunities for the appropriate inclusion of LGBTI+ lives in the curriculum as part of curriculum review at both primary and senior-cycle levels.

Take account of the needs and interests of LGBTI+ people in libraries’ collections development and acquisitions policy.

Take practical measures to increase the availability of non-gendered toilets in public buildings.

Support a nation-wide week-long LGBTI+ History and Culture Festival in 2020.

Use the Business to Arts programme to fund LGBTI+ artists and promote positive visibility.

The ministry also wants to support the creation of more inclusive workplaces and safer public spaces. In addition, it wants Ireland to be recognised as an LGBTI+ friendly tourist destination.

Equal treatment and health services

As regards the “treated equally” section, it wants same sex parents to be treated as equally as opposite sex parents. The strategy also aims to raise awareness of support available to LGBTI+ people.

TREATED EQUALLY (some of the actions to be taken by 2020)

Provide tailored legal advice and advocacy to LGBTI+ people via a specialised legal advice clinic.

Bring forward legislative proposals to provide for adoptive leave and benefit for male same sex adoptive couples.

Develop a placement and accommodation policy to reflect and build upon existing good practice in the accommodation of vulnerable prisoners including LGBTI+ people.

“It is planned that the Assisted Human Reproduction legislation currently in development is inclusive of LGBTI+ people who wish to start families and that legislative proposals will be brought forward to provide for adoptive leave and benefit for male same sex couples,” the document reads.

The “health” pillar aims to make sure, for example, that sexual health services are available across Ireland and that people with HIV are also supported. Additionally, one of the goals is to make treatment for people who wish to transition their gender timely accessible .

HEALTH (some of the actions to be taken by 2020)

Deliver targeted outreach sexual health programmes and campaigns to at risk groups.

Expand condom distribution services, with initial focus targeting those most at risk.

Expand community HIV testing to populations at higher risk for HIV, mainly MSM and migrants, through NGO partners.

Implement sexual health promotion training for professionals in the youth and other sectors, those working with at risk-groups, and for parents.

Develop a HIV stigma campaign with a strong focus at the city level for the cities that sign up to the fast-track cities initiative.

Continue to develop transgender health services for children and adults in Ireland with a clear transition pathway from child to adult services.

The strategy addressing today’s society of Ireland

The last of the pillars, “safe and supported”, intends to protect LGBTI+ people from hate crime and hate speech.

“The aim is to increase the capacity of An Garda Síochána to respond to the needs of victims of hate crime and to have an improved understanding of the LGBTI+ community in general,” the strategy reads.

SAFE AND SUPPORTED (some of the actions to be taken by 2020)

Bring forward legislative proposals to ensure that incitement to hatred and hate crimes against LGBTI+ people are adequately addressed in our laws.

Implement a fully functioning on-line system for reporting hate crime.

Continue to integrate the promotion and protection of the rights of LGBTI+ individuals into Ireland’s foreign policy.

Minister Flanagan concluded it is important Ireland’s LGBTI+ strategy responds to key issues that the community faces.

This is a National Strategy because it speaks to Ireland – to the society we are, and the society we aspire to be.”

About the author

Peter Dlhopolec

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