Tackling prejudicial attitudes and behaviour
The Commission considers that tackling prejudicial attitudes and behaviour towards LGB individuals is a priority area for strategic action. We recommend specific action to tackle homophobic hate crime and violence; harassment both inside and outside the workplace and homophobic bullying in schools.
We outline our specific recommendations in relation to each of these areas below, together with our recommendations on tackling homophobia in sport.
Discrimination and prejudice limit the ability of LGB people to live autonomous lives and to fulfil their potential. It can restrict their ability to access or remain in employment or access day to day services. It not only causes deep personal hurt and distress to LGB individuals but violates their dignity as human beings.
Tackling prejudice and discrimination against LGB people not only benefits LGB individuals but the local communities in which we live and Northern Ireland society as a whole. Discrimination is both costly and damaging to Northern Ireland society. It damages social cohesion and inhibits the ability of individuals to maximise their potential.
Negative or stereotypical attitudes towards LGB people can, for example, result in their access to services either being denied or restricted; being excluded from jobs including public life posts; being subjected to harassment, hate crime, homophobic bullying or violence; or in being socially isolated. In turn, such treatment can have a significant detrimental impact on their mental and/or physical wellbeing.
Independent research commissioned by the Equality Commission reveals the high levels of prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes of the general public in Northern Ireland towards LGB people.
For example, the Commission’s most recent Equality Awareness Survey 2011 has found that, whilst there was a decline in negative attitudes towards LGB people since 2008, there was not a corresponding increase in positive attitudes.
In addition, the survey shows high levels of negative attitudes towards LGB people in specific scenarios, such as in the workplace or in the local community. In particular, it found that more than two fifths (42%) of respondents would mind if an LGB person was in a close relationship with a relative, while 27% minded having an LGB person as a neighbour and 22% minded having an LGB person as a work colleague. These negative attitudes towards LGB people in specific scenarios are broadly similar or higher than the findings in the 2008 survey.