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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 9, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 49
British government to advance Trans rights
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British government to advance Trans rights

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

For the first time, the British government has announced an action plan to tackle discrimination and violence targeting Transgender people.

The plan - 'Advancing Transgender Equality: A Plan for Action' - was released by the British Home Office on December 8. It includes tougher penalties for hate crimes, support for Trans pupils in schools, and Transgender recruitment advice for businesses.

The Home Office said the document is intended to create a framework for communities to work with the government to address and overcome persisting inequalities.

British Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone announced the new plan.

'Too many Transgender people still face prejudice at every stage of their lives, from playground bullying to being overlooked for jobs or targeted for crime,' she said.

'I am proud to announce the first government strategy to tackle the specific barriers facing Transgender people.

'Like everyone else, Transgender people have the right to be accepted, to live their lives free of harassment, and to be free to achieve any ambition they choose.'

Featherstone is a Liberal Democrat, the junior partner to the Conservatives in the two-party British coalition government.

According to the action plan, the government will publish a 'clear and concise guide for health practitioners,' including primary care physicians, on the treatment and care available to Trans people, and ensure greater consistency in commissioning gender-related services.

The document also commits the government to raising the minimum sentence for hate-motivated murders of Trans people from 15 to 30 years.

'Hate crimes are abhorrent,' Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said. 'They leave sections of society living in fear and at risk of unprovoked violence.

'These proposals make clear offenders should be in no doubt that they face a more severe sentence for these unacceptable crimes.'

According to BBC News, British statistics show that 70% of children who are uncertain about their gender suffer bullying, and 88% of Transgender employees experience discrimination or harassment in their workplace.

British police report a 14% increase in Transphobic hates crimes from 2009 to 2010.

The government action plan was developed in part through an online survey of the Trans community. According to British government sources, the survey received 2,172 responses, the largest form of engagement with the group ever conducted in the U.K.

Jay Stewart, co-founder of Gendered Intelligence, which works to tackle Transphobic bullying in schools and across communities, was pleased that the government had solicited the views of the Trans community.

'The Transgender action plan demonstrates a commitment across government to ensure fair treatment to Transgender people. It's fantastic news for our community. We must now work together to educate people about what it means to be Transgendered,' he said.

'The plan came about through working with the Trans community, and this includes young Trans people. I am delighted that Gendered Intelligence has played its part and that the voices of our young people have also been heard.'

April Ashley, who in 1960 became the first Briton to undergo gender reassignment surgery, praised the Home Office announcement.

'I think there are so many support groups out there unlike when I did my transition 52 years ago when there was no help at all,' she said. 'Today's announcement shows we are moving forward to breaking down barriers and educating people.'

Featherstone admitted that government regulations can have only a limited role, and called on all British institutions to address Trans issues.

'Today is an important step, but I recognize that government can only go so far,' she said. 'So we will be working with schools, businesses, and communities so that together, we can drive change and help consign Transphobia to the past.'

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