Everyone Has the Right To Respect and Fair Treatment
The Equality Commission’s Chief Commissioner Michael Wardlow, has said that laws against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation are built on the same principle as all equality law – respect for the dignity of all people.
Mr. Wardlow was speaking in the week of the annual Belfast Pride festival which is seen by many as an occasion of positive affirmation and celebration for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people and their friends. Mr. Wardlow said that “despite the fact that the Pride festival is now a regular event in Northern Ireland’s calendar, we cannot ignore the fact that many members of that community will have experienced hurtful and discriminatory treatment.”
The Commission’s recent Equality Awareness Survey showed that a quarter of people responding expressed negative attitudes to the prospect of having a gay, lesbian or bi-sexual person as a neighbour and 40% said they wouldn’t want a close relative to be in a relationship with a gay person.
The Equality Commission’s legal services staff dealt with 82 enquiries about discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the year just past, and 57 of these concerned cases involving employment or the workplace. Although complaints regarding goods facilities and services had increased from previous years, workplace discrimination is still the most common form of complaint brought to the Commission.
This week the Equality Commission will have staff at Belfast, Newry and Foyle Pride celebrations, both to give advice to those who may be experiencing discrimination and also to hear about first hand experiences so that we can better shape our services. It will also run ‘Your Rights At Work’ events in partnership with the trade union UNISON during the Pride weeks in Belfast and in Foyle..
“At these events we will give advice about discrimination at work, but we also want to hear from those attending about their good and poor experiences, to increase our understanding of the type of discriminatory treatment they receive. If they have not complained about this, we want to know what the barriers are which inhibit them from doing so.”
“We are focused on the issue of under-reporting in this area and will seek to develop partnership projects over the coming period as part of our commitment to ensure that everyone in our society is afforded respect and treated fairly, regardless of their sexual orientation. As a society, we cannot claim to respect people’s dignity while tolerating discrimination against them.”
The Equality Commission provides free and confidential advice to anyone who believes they have been subjected to unlawful discrimination and can be contacted at 028 90 500 600.
Michael Wardlow is speaking at our Equality Law Update 2012 event on Thursday 4th October at the Hilton Hotel, Lanyon Place, Belfast.
His session is described as follows:
What’s Right and Wrong with Northern Ireland’s Equality Laws?
The ECNI vision from Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission. What will drive Northern Ireland’s Equality agenda in 2013 and beyond? Is there still a NI-specific equality agenda? Will we achieve parity with GB equality laws or drift further apart? The new Chief Commissioner outlines the vision, key aims and objectives for the future.
Please view our Equality Law Update 2012 webpage fore more information on this conference and details on how to book.