Current Affairs

Welsh gay community’s silent victims of abuse

Joe Roberts June 26, 2007
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A new BBC Wales investigation has revealed that as many as 80% of the gay community suffer verbal or physical abuse in their lifetime.

Yet according to Home Office figures only one in ten of these incidents will be reported.

The investigation comes in response to news that recorded crimes against gay and lesbian people in Wales are on the increase.

New procedures, including anonymous reporting and the protection of victims’ identity in court cases, have made reporting easier by reducing fear of reprisal or being involuntarily ‘outed’.

“You’ve gone from an organisation that a few years ago was unnecessarily prosecuting individuals for their sexual preferences, to one that is actively engaging our lesbian and gay communities to try and make things a little better” admits South Wales Police’s deputy chief constable Peter Vaughan.

“I’m happy to say that things have vastly improved, but only recently improved.”

Yet for many, including Stonewall Cymru, present legislation does not go far enough in protecting those who experience homophobia.

Although current law allows homophobic intent to be taken into account as an aggravating feature during sentencing, there are no offences relating specifically to homophobic hate crime as there are for those motivated by race or religious hatred.

Matthew Batten, Stonewall Cyrus’s policy and public affairs officer, believes that this discrepancy need to be urgently corrected to send out the very clear message of homophobia’s unacceptability.

“Stonewall is campaigning for the government to include a new offence of incitement to hate crime on the grounds of sexual orientation,” he says of the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill.

“It’s something we know we’ve got widespread support for and will be lobbying very hard for.”

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