Friday, 5 April 2019

Why it is right to call out inhumane treatment of people around the world.

UPDATE: I am pleased the degree will be reviewed by Oxford University. I understand this will require due process. I would still like to hear a strong statement whilst carrying this out. And I do hope that empathy for the people of Brunei features in the discussion.

In Brunei, new laws have been introduced that make anal sex and adultery punishable with death by stoning. It was already punishable with a long term of imprisonment, horrific in it's own right (consensual homosexual sex is not in any way wrong), but now these actions result in death by a particularly gruesome form of execution.

As an LGBTI+ person, I was horrified to learn of this. Yet, not wholly surprised. I recently gave an overview of the treatment of LGBTI+ people around the world to a local Amnesty International group, and my research was... difficult to say the least.

Yet, I am amazing by the response of the general public to these new laws. There is a well supported petition asking our Government to intervene and attempt to end these laws. There are companies who have taken a stand against the new laws in Brunei.

in 1993, Oxford University gave the Sultan an
honorary degree in civil law.

In light of these new laws, and as a member of Oxford University, I am pleased by the response from members of the Oxford Students Union, and other University members, in their call to rescind an Honorary Degree awarded to the Sultan of Brunei by Oxford University. Note, other Universities are also being called upon to rescind any honorary degrees given to the Sultan. Rescinding a degree may not be a trivial thing to enact, but it is amazing to see both the desire and the will to try from within these institutions.

Yesterday morning I was told that writing a letter to the University, or even having the Sultan's Honorary Degree actually removed, would make no difference to the people of Brunei.

I disagree.
Whilst it may not directly help the people of Brunei, it will help to shape political views. It will help raise awareness of the issues faced by LGBTI+ people around the world. Because, whilst this is the latest place to be highlighted, LGBTI+ rights and liberties are at risk around the world.
We cannot fight every cause, and right now there are a lot of countries where people are suffering, but it will send a message. We do pick our battles, and it seems that the public has chosen this one. 
Optimistically I hope that international pressure will help the people of Brunei directly. 

We can certainly try.

Even if the degree is not rescinded, we as a community will have said that we do not agree with the actions taking place in Brunei, and have made our views clear to Oxford University

We reject this type atrocity.
We do not accept that this sort of law can go by unchallenged.
We call on our institutions to make a strong statement of support for the people of Brunei and the LGBTI+ community.  
To be clear, things are not perfect in the UK either.
The recent protests in Birmingham (and Manchester, etc) regarding LGBTI+ awareness lessons in schools.
The constant attack of trans people in the media.
The young LGBTI+ people I know who are bullied by their peers, rejected by their parents and guardians, and failed by their schools.
My LGBTI+ youth groups have come under attack from people who believe trans children to be a threat to other children.
I was heckled last month when giving a Trans Awareness 101 talk in Oxford, for spreading ‘trans propaganda’.
I expect to receive abuse every time I talk.
That won’t keep me quiet. After all, unequivocal free speech is a two way street.  
On a positive note, the response to the issues I mention above has been overwhelming.
There are a lot of supportive families, schools reach out to me regularly to see how they can make life better for their pupils. People within my University have take a stand on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. We highlight LGBTI+ people in the University, we are not hidden away.
There is a lot of understanding out there. A lot of support.

The response to change in laws in Brunei show that.

I alone have no power, but as a group we do. As the public, we have a voice.
Please sign the petitions.

Let’s bring this issue Oxford University and the UK government. I hope they listen to us.
Changes and policies do not always happen as we would like. Quite rightly, this is the way with debate and democracy. But let's ensure it is discussed openly. We can at least try.

It will not quickly change the laws in Brunei, but as an optimist, maybe it will do in time.