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Boris Johnson’s new equalities minister abstained from same-sex marriage vote and thinks homophobia in Friends is fine

Vic Parsons February 16, 2020
Kemi Badenoch: New equalities minister abstained from gay marriage vote

Kemi Badenoch, junior minister for equalities and Saffron Walden MP. (Chris McAndrew/Official portrait of Kemi Badenoch)

Boris Johnson’s new junior minister for equalities, Kemi Badenoch, abstained on the extension of same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.

Badenoch has also criticised young people for having a “puritanical” approach to sexual harassment.

Johnson handed Badenoch, 40, the role on Friday (February 14). She has been the MP for Saffron Walden since 2017.

Badenoch will take on the role of forming policy for women and LGBT+ people alongside her post as a Treasury minister.

Liz Truss – who previously suggested renaming the government equalities office the “Ministry of Freedom” to move away from “identity politics” – remains the Cabinet-level equalities minister.

Kemi Badenoch questions young people’s approach to sexual harassment.

As well as abstaining on the successful July 2019 vote on extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland (which resulted in the first same-sex weddings being held there last week), Badenoch questioned young people’s approach to sexual harassment in the wake of #MeToo,

In a 2018 interview with The House magazine, she said: “What we thought was quite liberal is now seen as quite conservative and vice versa.”

“When I look at a lot of the stuff that you see on social media about how – I think it’s a generational thing as well – younger people look at appropriate behaviour and what is a sexual advance, what is sexual harassment and so on, to me, it’s actually becoming a lot more puritanical than anything I ever saw in my 20s or in my teens.”

Badenoch helped tackle “taboo” of male rape survivors.

But in 2016, when she was a London assembly member, Badenoch was part of a push to give more funding to charities working with male rape survivors.

She helped lobby for funding to tackle the “taboo” of male rape, saying: “Male rape is a rarely mentioned taboo.

“No victim of rape or sexual assault should feel they have nowhere to turn and be made to suffer in silence.”

Badenoch: ‘Doesn’t compute’ to criticise Friends for homophobia and transphobia.

In the 2018 interview, Badenoch added that she thought it was a “very puritanical position” to criticise 90s sitcom Friends for what are now seen to be homophobic and transphobic jokes and plotlines.

“In the papers, they were talking about how [TV show] Friends is now sort of really homophobic, transphobic and so on. That, for me, is a very, very – it’s actually a puritanical position that I think of as conservative. So, you can’t really put your finger on what is what these days.

Friends was the biggest television series of all time. Everybody loved it, it was syndicated all around the world. The idea that in a few years people are talking about it as if it’s this horrific series, for me that just doesn’t compute, something has gone wrong somewhere.

“I don’t know whether it’s a fad, where people are saying these things and then they’ll move on to something else or whether this is now a permanent thing. I’ve seen these fits and seizures where everybody is interested in something and then they move on.”

When she was elected in the 2017 snap election, Badenoch became the first woman to represent Saffron Walden.

In the 2019 snap election she increased her majority to 27,500.

More: Boris Johnson, Kemi Badenoch, reshuffle

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