LAMBETH COUNCIL DEBATES LGBT+ INCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS AND EDUCATION

At their latest full meeting  Lambeth council debated the following motion:

LGBT+ inclusive education

This council notes that LGBT+ inclusive relationships education and relationships and sex education is crucial to the development of young LGBT+ people, and in creating a more tolerant and open society. Council notes the homophobic protests against inclusive education at Anderton Park Primary in Birmingham and the serious impact these have had on pupils, staff and the community. Council also notes the recent spate of homophobic attacks and that hate crimes against LGBT people in England and Wales have trebled since 2014.

Council welcomes the introduction of statutory Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), which all primary and secondary schools in England respectively will be required to teach from September 2020. Council affirms unequivocally its support for compulsory LGBT+ inclusive Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education in all state funded primary and secondary schools. Council commits to ensuring that Lambeth schools are delivering RSE in line with new Government guidance, and calls on the Government to fully back all schools in delivering inclusive education.

Five councillors spoke on the motion, giving what News From Crystal Palace regards as five first-rate speeches. News From Crystal Palace reproduces three of them here IN FULL.

Cllrs Seedat and Caldicott sent copies of their speeches to us, Cllr Thackray sent copies of her notes.

Cllr Donnelly made his speech without notes but referred NFCP to Lambeth Labour party’s Twitter feed from which his speech is taken and where his maiden speech can be found. By last Friday it had already had more than 5,000 views. Amazingly there is no broadcast available at lambeth.gov of the full council meeting.

 The speeches are reproduced here in the order they were given. Some people will not like everything that all five councillors said. Some people may find parts of the following offensive. Although parts of the debate were very dark there were also a couple of humorous moments.  News From Crystal Palace takes the view that, whether some people like it or not, this is a debate that needs to be aired……

Cllr Stephen Donnelly

Now there are consequences to re-opening these debates because with the oxygen that was given to this bigotry we saw a spate of violence against LGBT people across the country. In London, Liverpool, Southampton, Hull all within the space of a month.

There was something that particularly troubling about these attacks because when Melania Geymonat and her partner (Chris) were brutally beaten on a London bus in June what struck many of us in the LGBT community more than the heartbreaking image of  two women covered in blood on that bus was the revelation that one of their attackers was as young as 15.

Much the same a few weeks later when, after two married men were stabbed in Liverpool, police revealed it was 12 year old who had pulled the knife.

The age of these attackers matter because in a time when some people think homophobia will just disappear through some demographic change they remind us that younger generations are not born automatically enlightened.

Social progress does not chart its own course and that the freedoms our community has fought so hard to secure could be reversed with exactly the same speed at which they were won.

If you’re old enough to attack somebody with a knife because they are different to you then you are old enough to be taught about the difference.

That’s why we need LGBT inclusive education. That’s why I’ve brought this motion today.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Cllr Becca Thackray:

Our amendment* highlights the mental health of transgendered people. The first Trans Pride in London is on Sat 14 Sept – Brighton celebrates theirs this weekend.

The Birmingham, protesters disapproved of young children hearing about sex in the context of relationships.

Lambeth was the 1st PCT to qualify its school nurses in delivering RSE alongside teachers right from Reception Class.

Children really enjoy talking about:

the types of family configurations they know

what it means to respect their body and other people’s.

asking questions about periods and pregnancy – AT THEIR LEVEL

e.g. I was asked “My mummy’s going to have a baby. Can she still hop?!”

And whether its gay or straight relationships, children are very often equally accepting because the premise is ‘why would anyone want to do that?’

A few years later in Sec Sch when their hormones kick in they’re giggly & self-conscious and the questions develop as they do.

It’s crucial to the wellbeing and safety of young people in Lambeth that they have well-trained teachers to support this learning.

There have been many years of campaigning to introduce RSE in all state schools.

This Motion notes Lambeth Council’s backing for a more tolerant and open society.

_______________________________________________________________________

Cllr Mo Seedat

I start with a personal reflection: In my entire extended family of over 100 Muslims, there is not a single gay person. 600 Muslims attended my wedding.

No gay people. Statistically, it’s improbable. Being gay, is one of the last great taboos in Muslim communities.

Tonight’s motions about inclusive education, (adoption of the APPG definition of) Islamophobia and the prior motion on the IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism are all attempts to legislate the boundaries of free-speech before they delve into hatred, before the right to express oneself damages the very fabric and functioning of our society.

Firstly, I must admit, I was tentative about supporting the Islamophobia motion. Much like Southall Black Sisters, I have reservations about the implications of the proposed definition as there are many ills in our various Muslim communities that must be confronted: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forced marriages, domestic violence, grooming gangs, homophobia, anti-Semitism and of course Islamist extremism, ills which cannot be dismissed with labels of Islamophobia.

Similarly, the freedom to draw cartoons of the prophet (or of any religious figures), to renounce Islam (apostatise), to challenge its tenets theologically, to challenge blasphemy laws elsewhere, cannot be dismissed under the guise of anti-Muslim racism. The APPG report goes into great detail about these tensions.

However, the comments by the US president in recent days, comments by the possible future Prime Minister (Boris Johnson), the treatment of the Mayor Sadiq Khan and Home Secretary Sajid Javid – who is openly Atheist – by the press and politicians alike, convince me that on balance a line must be drawn before the normalisation of anti-Muslim hate is entrenched. Hence my support for tonight’s Islamophobia motion.

So I see tonight’s motions as a social contract necessary for a civil society – which applies to everyone, so that personal beliefs do not hamper justice, fairness or safety. The motions are also attempts at normalising social progress. Cllr Donnelly reminded us, that social progress can never be taken as a ‘given’. Some derogatively call these campaigns ‘virtue signalling’ – I prefer to call it leadership.

I am a computing engineer – a field in which Alan Turing is revered. Programming languages are categorised as ‘Turing Complete’. The ‘Turing Test’ measures the humanity of Artificial Intelligence, the Enigma computer changed the course of War and with it modern life, and he’s now belatedly celebrated on a £50 note, as a British hero.

But consider, he not only took his own life at the age of just 41, but he was chemically castrated only 67 years ago – within living memory – because his crime was to love men. The very thought of such a punishment evokes revulsion today.

But in just 67 years, two generations, the Muslim mayor of London, the mayor of the most progressive city in the world, in one of the most accepting countries in the world, led gay pride. I was proud that a Muslim mayor led pride.

So I finish by saying to my Muslim brothers and sisters: We cannot demand acceptance and harbour bigotry. We cannot request protection to be who we want to be and offer intolerance in return. We cannot uphold our faith through reasoned arguments and demonstrate fear and ignorance about what it means to be gay. Our children are not ‘less gay’ than others, only our personal beliefs stops them from being who they truly want to be.

My four-year-old daughter starts primary school in September. Her school will be required to teach her what a loving relationship means – and she is old enough to understand.

Speaking as a Muslim parent, my wife and I fully support her school – and any other school – who desire to teach children what acceptance in 21st century Britain truly means.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cllr Lucy Caldicott

Some years ago I was chief executive at Diversity Role Models, a charity which works to eradicate homophobia from the UK’s primary and secondary schools and increase young people’s understanding of diversity. The charity runs workshops which feature LGBT+ role models and allies who share their stories and discuss issues with young people. Sharing stories is such an important way to increase empathy and understanding.

My own story as a young lesbian growing up in 1980s Warwickshire was entirely absent of positive role models. And also entirely absent of any form of relationship and sex education at school. I had some distressing and lonely times before I was able to begin to live as my true self when I came out at the age of 28.

One of my most powerful memories from my time at Diversity Role Models was sitting in on a Year 8 session at a school in Tower Hamlets where the role models were a gay Bengali Muslim man and a white transwoman. The class, which was largely British Bangladeshi, was completely silent as the role models shared their stories and experiences of bullying and exclusion. The gay man spoke of his wrestles between his faith and his identity. After they’d finished, there was a hush. Then a hand went up:

“So…can I ask, is homophobia a bit like Islamophobia?”

This young student had made this connection on his own and his question led to a very interesting conversation about allies and solidarity between different minority groups.

It has been extremely distressing to see and hear about the parents demonstrating outside primary schools in Birmingham and to hear the anger that some of the parents are expressing. It’s no coincidence that minorities are being pitted against each other at a time when our society is so unequal and our communities are being torn apart by Brexit. It’s no coincidence that the notorious homophobe politician Ann Widdecombe has now taken up her seat in the European Parliament representing the anti-immigrant Brexit Party. Divide and conquer has always been the method used by the powerful to gain more power. With the rise of hate crime on our streets, it’s more important than ever that our children are taught to celebrate difference and understand that many forms of families exist.

One of the things that drives my politics is to do everything I can to be a good ancestor. To ensure that the teenage Lucies of the future have access to all the information they need to live a happy and fulfilled life.

I am proud to be a councillor in Lambeth and proud to support this motion.

______________________________________________________________________________

Cllr Matthew Bennett

Cllr Bennett is welcome to let us have a copy of his speech where it will be used in full in the same manner as other councillors who spoke on the motion – Editor.

__________________________________________________________________________________

*BACKGROUND

The green party amendment, which was not carried, read as follows:

Amendment 2: Green Party

LGBT+ inclusive education

This council notes that LGBTQIA+ inclusive relationships education and relationships and sex education are is crucial to the wellbeing, safety and development of young LGBTQIA+ people, and in creating a more tolerant and open society. Council notes the homophobic protests against inclusive education at Anderton Park Primary in Birmingham and the serious impact these have had on pupils, staff and the community. Council also notes the recent spate of

homophobic and transphobic attacks and that homophobic and transphobic hate crimes have more than doubled in England and Wales since 2014, with transphobic attacks trebling.

Council recognises the impact that homophobia and transphobia has on young people’s lives. One in eight young gay people have thought about taking their life. This rises sharply to half of all transgender people. Council therefore recognises that education that is inclusive of LGBTQIA+ identities can save lives and is fundamental to young people’s mental health.

Council notes the work of organisations and campaigners over many years to introduce compulsory statutory Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), including Caroline Lucas MP who tabled a 10 Minute Rule Bills in Parliament in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to introduce it. Council welcomes the introduction of statutory Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), which all primary and secondary schools in England respectively will be required to teach from September 2020, but notes the Government missed its original target of September 2019. Council affirms unequivocally its support for compulsory LGBTQIA+ inclusive Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education in all state funded primary and secondary schools. Council commits to ensuring that Lambeth schools are delivering RSE in line with new Government guidance, and calls on the Government to fully back all schools in delivering inclusive education.

A Conservative amendment (not moved) would have added the following: and commits to actions, rather than the usual virtue-signalling by Labour councillors, by reinstating Lambeth Council’s LGBT+ officer monitoring hate crime, who was removed by Labour councillors in 2015.

As News From Crystal Palace has previously reported, Cllr Tim Briggs, the only blue on the council, has banned himself from full meetings of the council because of what he regards as officer bias.

Further reading: Four male teenagers arrested after ‘disgusting’ night bus attack on couple / Police appeal for more witnesses to come forward and promise questioning will be ‘relentless’ 07 June, 2019 — By Tom Foot Camden Journal (Includes appalling photo of aftermath of attack – Ed.)

“Lambeth council will stand firmly alongside our schools…and will never bow down to bigotry, or allow intolerance to dictate what is taught to our children” – Lambeth council’s letter on LGBT education to head teachers August 7th 2019

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