Pride in London 2017

12 July 2017

One of the most inclusive events in the world, Pride in London 2017 saw close to a million people take to the streets on Saturday to unite, express freedom and solidarity, and campaign for change. 

It was a time for celebration and a time to reflect on the struggle faced to get to this point, and keep in mind that there is still a long way to go.  

Pride marches and parades first began in London in 1970, when 150 people gathered in protest with a voice and a call for equality for the gay community. 

Two years later, the first Pride march took place which saw around 2,000 people take to the streets. The date, 1 July, was chosen as the nearest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall uprisings in 1969 by members of the gay community in protest against the infamous police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York. 

Despite anti-campaigners coming out to heckle and shout abuse, the day ended with a celebratory party and has evolved since then. 

Fast-forward a little more than 40-years to 2017, Pride in London saw the biggest ever Pride parade, and an estimated one million people cheering them on. Its aim is to give every part of the LGBT+ community a platform to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues and to campaign for the equality that every individual deserves.

Since 1990, 40 countries have decriminalised homosexuality and over 30 have outlawed homophobic hate crimes. As of 2015, over 60 countries legally protect LGBT+ people at work and 15 recognise same-sex marriage.

Gay rights in the UK has had a fragmented history, something made all the more important to remember with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 legislation which saw the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales.

Although there was progress, discrimination continued. The age of sexual consent for two men was 21, compared to 16 for the heterosexual community and it wasn’t until 1980 that the law was extended to Scotland by Section 80 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. 

The battle for equality is a long one. As of 2014, same sex couples can get married. While this sounds like success, same sex couples still do not have equal rights and can only be married in a religious ceremony if the religious organisation has agreed to marry same sex couples.

Elsewhere, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, just voted against same sex marriage based on the assumption that marriage should be between a man and a woman. 

Despite Ms Merkel voting against gay marriage, she told her MPs to “follow their conscience” and gay marriage was legalised last month. 

The Netherlands became the first in the world to allow homosexual couples to get married and other countries in Europe have made the same decision, including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. 

According to The 2017 School Report by Stonewall, a charity that campaigns for the equality LGBT people across Britain, nearly half of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pupils - 45 per cent, and 64 per cent of transgender pupils – are bullied for being LGBT+ at school.

The report found that one in five LGBT pupils have considered changing schools because their school is not a supportive environment for them as an LGBT person, and six per cent of LGBT pupils have gone on to change schools for this reason.

Transgender pupils are at particular risk of bullying - 51 per cent are bullied at school for being transgender. One in three transgender pupils are not able to be known by their preferred name at school, while three in five are not allowed to use the toilets they feel comfortable in.

The picture varies significantly from one area of Great Britain to another. In Greater London and the South East, between 36 and 40 per cent of LGBT pupils are bullied for being LGBT, compared to the East and West Midlands where the rate is 51 per cent and Wales, which has the highest rate at 54 per cent - 18 per cent higher than the South East. 

Discrimination reaches all parts of society, and in one of the biggest surveys of homosexuals in England, researchers from Cambridge University reported that 12 per cent of lesbian women and almost 19 per cent of bisexual women reported mental health problems, compared with six per cent of heterosexual women*.

While we should be proud that the UK currently holds the world record for having the most LGBT+ people in parliament with 45 LGBT+ MPs elected, the picture isn’t perfect. 

45 LGBT+ MPs is the highest number ever to be elected and represents seven per cent of the new House of Commons. However, the 45 MPs do not reflect the diversity of the LGBT community in the UK with 36 men and only nine women, all are white and none is transgender. 

World Pride calls itself “the most important worldwide event for the LGBT+ community”. Organised by InterPride, World Pride promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues on an international level through parades, festivals and other cultural activities. Pride in London is one of the largest Pride events worldwide, and is one of London’s biggest annual events.

Although World Pride is a celebration as much as a reminder of the fight for equality, the fight is a global one, and one that isn’t won. Sex with someone of the same sex is still illegal in 72 countries, and punishable by death in eight.

In Uganda, judges can now impose life sentences for people who have gay sex. Those who “aid and abet homosexuality”, or fail to report suspected homosexuals, face terms of up to 14-years.

The media reported last month that people in Turkey attending an LGBT+ march, were shot at with rubber bullets by police. It came after the march was banned for the third year, citing the reason as security risks. 

This year’s Pride in London was a celebration of LGBT+ life but, importantly, it was also a platform to challenge prejudice and to continue the fight for equality. 


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