THE RAINBOW PROJECT CALLS FOR DEMONSTRATION AGAINST GAY CONCENTRATION CAMPS IN CHECHNYA

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The Rainbow Project, the largest support and advocacy organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender people and their families in Northern Ireland, has organised a demonstration against the Chechen government’s creation of concentration camps for gay men.

Reports from Human Rights Watch and the independent Novoya Gazeta have confirmed that the Chechen government has commenced a programme of hunting down gay men, interning them in concentration camps and subjecting them to torture including sexual degradation. It has been reported that three of the victims have been murdered.

To protest against this extreme violation of human rights and to highlight the failure of the UK government to intervene, The Rainbow Project has organised a demonstration to be held at Belfast City Hall on Friday 14th April at 5.30pm.

Speaking ahead of the demonstration, John O’Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project, said: ‘There has been widespread state-sponsored intimidation, discrimination and violence against LGBT within the Russian Federation for many years but this action by the Russian republic of Chechnya represents a depraved new low which must be opposed by governments around the world.

‘We are calling on LGBT people and our allies to show that we will not stand by while tyrants round our brothers up to be tortured and murdered. We also demand that the UK government and Prime Minister Theresa May intervene to ensure that; the internees are freed, that they are offered safe passage to asylum in Europe and that the Russian authorities will investigate these abuses of human rights and hold accountable those responsible.

‘In the past, European nations have looked away while gay men and other marginalised groups were tortured in Nazi concentration camps. We will not allow this to happen again.’

 

ENDS

Renewed call for Marriage Equality from Love Equality coalition

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A commitment to deliver equal marriage must be a litmus test for any new Northern Ireland government, campaigners said today at a press conference in Belfast.

The campaigners, from the Love Equality coalition, the campaign for equal civil marriage in Northern Ireland, said that they believed there was now a clear majority of MLAs in the newly-elected Assembly in favour of equal marriage.

They called for a cross-party commitment to pass equal marriage legislation early in the new Assembly mandate, saying this should be a key litmus test for whether any new Executive was willing to be a “government for all the people” of Northern Ireland.

Clare Moore of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NIC-ICTU), the representative body for 34 trade unions with over 215,000 members across Northern Ireland, the largest civil society organisation in the region, said:

“Any new Executive must be willing to be a government for all the people of Northern Ireland. A key litmus test of this is whether it is willing to pass equal marriage legislation, as supported by an overwhelming majority of people and now also of Assembly members.

“The Love Equality campaign knows that a very significant majority of members of the new Assembly support equal marriage. The will of the people must be respected. That means there must be no more delay in delivering marriage equality.”

Declan Meehan of Cara-Friend, one of Northern Ireland’s main LGBT community organisations, said:

“All of the people of Northern Ireland must be served by the incoming government – that includes the LGBT community.

“Before any new Executive is formed, there must be a firm commitment to deliver equal marriage legislation. Without that, we know it will be another five years of LGBT people being treated as second-class citizens of Northern Ireland.

“Clearly, we think any new Executive should legislate for equal marriage. At a minimum, there must be a public commitment by any parties forming a new Executive that their members will not deploy a petition of concern to prevent a private members’ bill on equal marriage similar to laws which already exist in England, Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.”

Newtownabbey couple Diane Hope and Andrea Marks are engaged and want to be able to get married in Northern Ireland in the company of their families and friends. Andrea said:

“We want the same recognition and respect as any other couple out there. We are different, but then again so is everyone. That is not a reason to deny us equal rights under the law. Our love is just as important and valid as that of opposite-sex couples.”

Love Equality, the campaign for equal civil marriage in Northern Ireland, is made up of the following organisations: Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Cara-Friend, Amnesty International, NUS-USI, Here NI, Rainbow Project.

Rainbow Project Commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day

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January 27th marks Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK. The systematic destruction of those deemed ‘undesirable’ by the Nazis and their allies across Europe was a catastrophic waste of life and was carried out in some of the most inhumane, brutal and unforgivable ways imaginable. The Rainbow Project would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to remember those that lost their lives under the jackboot of Nazi oppression because of their religion, ethnicity, political belief, sexual orientation, physical ability or gender identity. We must not forget the many thousands of LGB&T people that were driven from their jobs, their homes, exiled or murdered by the Nazis and their allies in the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Chelmno and many others.

Speaking on the remembrance of the event The Rainbow Project Advocacy Officer Dan Peters said “We are reminded each year of the horrors of the Holocaust as well as its impact on the LGB&T community. It is estimated that around one hundred thousand gay or bisexual men were arrested by the Nazi regime and their puppet states across Europe during the Holocaust and of those around fifty thousand were worked to death in the concentration camps or executed. Forced to wear pink triangles to further dehumanise them, those LGB&T people who dared to exist in such a time must never be forgotten. We must also continue to fight for LGB&T people under oppressive regimes across the world so that this is never allowed to happen again.”

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust have released a video to commemorate those murdered under the Nazi regime and their allies. This year’s theme is “How Can Life Go On?”

THE RAINBOW PROJECT LAUNCHES ‘STEPS to ZERO’ CAMPAIGN TO MARK WORLD AIDS DAY 2016

THE RAINBOW PROJECT LAUNCHES ‘STEPS to ZERO’ CAMPAIGN TO MARK WORLD AIDS DAY 2016

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To mark World AIDS Day 2016, The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland’s largest support and advocacy organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGB&T) people and their families launched a new campaign designed to reduce new HIV infections to zero over the next 10 years.

The campaign, called ‘STEPS to ZERO’ outlines key measures which, if taken, will give the appropriate services and support to those living with HIV as well as equipping people with the skills and services which will allow them to manage their sexual health and prevent new infections.

Speaking on the launch of the STEPS to ZERO campaign, John O’Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project said: HIV continues to be a serious public health risk and unfortunately, the number of new diagnoses of HIV has steadily increased over the past 10 years and gay and bisexual men continue to be disproportionately affected by the virus. This indicates that government’s approach to this public health issue has not had the desirable effect of reducing new infections.

‘To this end, The Rainbow Project are proposing a new and holistic approach to HIV with the intention of reducing new infections to zero over the next 10 years. This will require joined up working across government, health and social care and the community and voluntary sector and it will involve tackling the virus and its associated stigma on a number of fronts.

‘Our STEPS to ZERO campaign will focus on five key areas of work:

  • Support – We must ensure that people living with HIV have access to the best possible support services, including services specifically tailored to those groups most affected by HIV i.e. gay and bisexual men.
  • Testing – We must actively encourage all sexually active people to regularly test for STIs and ensure that testing services are accessible and receive appropriate investment.
  • Education – We must ensure that there is greater public education about HIV and its treatment. We must also ensure that all young people have access to appropriate sex health education in school to equip them to make informed decisions.
  • Prevention – We must take steps to actively prevent new infections through safer sex, access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for at-risk groups and Treatment as Prevention (TasP) which renders people living with HIV non-infectious.
  • Stigma – We must eradicate the stigma which still surrounds HIV which arose from the homophobic prejudice and discrimination experienced by those first diagnosed with HIV and how governments failed to respond to the infection.

‘We believe that by following these STEPS to ZERO we can end HIV within a generation. It is within our grasp but we need joined up work and public engagement to make this a reality. This must be our task every day, not just on World AIDS Day. Please support this campaign by signing up on our website and pledge to do what you can to end the HIV crisis once and for all.’

ENDS

  1. For further information please contact John O’Doherty  or Gavin Boyd on 028 9031 9030
  2. For further information on the STEPS to ZERO campaign please visit http://www.rainbow-project.org/stepstozero
The Rainbow Project welcomes NI Assembly move on Pardons

The Rainbow Project welcomes NI Assembly move on Pardons

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The Rainbow Project has today welcomed the passing of the LCM on the Policing and Crime Bill by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Director of the Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty, welcomed the moves by the Justice Minister saying “This is the first time that the Northern Ireland Assembly has voted in favour of LGB&T legislation. It was only in 1982 that the criminalisation of gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland was ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights and we are pleased to see these homophobic and discriminatory convictions quashed, especially as they ruined the lives of so many men in Northern Ireland at the time.”

“We recognise that this move can never fully address the hurt, pain and loss experienced by gay and bisexual men convicted of now abolished crimes and believe that those criminalised for same sex relationships deserve an immediate apology as was afforded the family of Alan Turing. It has taken almost 35 years for the UK and Northern Ireland government to acknowledge and address the abuse, discrimination and wrongful criminalisation of our community and the legacy of this is still experienced by our community today.”

“We hope that the passing of this LCM will mark the first of many inequalities experienced by LGBT people in Northern Ireland that our Assembly will address during this mandate.”

ENDS

Rainbow Project Welcomes Pardons for Abolished Gay Sex Offences

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The Rainbow Project has welcomed the announcement by Justice Minister Claire Sugden that the pardon of abolished gay sex offences in England and Wales will also be extended to Northern Ireland under a Legislative Consent Motion. The pardons will be included in the Policing and Crime Bill that is currently being considered in Westminster and will only apply to men convicted of consensual gay sex who were over the age of 16.

Director of the Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty, welcomed the moves by the Justice Minister saying “This is the first time that the Northern Ireland Assembly has made positive moves in respect of LGB&T legislation and we are hopeful that with cross party support the pardons will be applicable to convictions made against gay men living in Northern Ireland. It was only in 1982 that the criminalisation of gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland was ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights and we are pleased to see these homophobic and discriminatory convictions quashed, especially as they ruined the lives of so many men in Northern Ireland at the time.”

The Justice Minister has confirmed that the pardons will be applicable to posthumous and live cases.

 

THE RAINBOW PROJECT WELCOMES COURT OF APPEAL RULING

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Today, The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland’s largest support organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender people welcomed a Court of Appeal judgement confirming that Ashers Baking company had acted unlawfully by refusing to fulfil their contractual agreement to make a cake with a slogan supporting marriage equality.

Reacting to the judgement, John O’Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project said: ‘We welcome today’s judgement. Ashers Baking Company entered into a contractual agreement to make this cake and then changed their mind. While sympathetic as some may be to the position in which the company finds itself; this does not change the facts of the case. The judgement clearly articulated that this is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification’

‘We do not believe that this matter should have been brought to court. We believe that Ashers bakery should have accepted the Equality Commission’s invitation to engage in mediation, where a remedy could have been found without the expense and division surrounding this court case.

‘We once again extend the hand of friendship to all people of faith, churches and families. We would encourage faith leaders to engage with our community to ensure better relations and to develop trust and respect between our overlapping communities for the betterment of our society.’

The Rainbow Project calls on the Justice Minister to enact Turing Law in Northern Ireland

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Following the announcement by the UK government that gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences are to receive posthumous pardons The Rainbow Project has called on the Minister for Justice to take immediate action to ensure that convictions occurring in Northern Ireland are dealt with in the same way.

Speaking on the announcement, Director of The Rainbow Project John O’Doherty said “Since 2012 gay and bisexual men in England and Wales were able to apply to the home office to have offences removed from their criminal records – this has not been the case in Northern Ireland. Indeed, we have seen this further move by the British Government to ensure posthumous pardons in England and Wales while once again LGBT people in Northern Ireland are treated with a double standard.”

“In August 2016 we met with the new Justice Minister Claire Sugden MLA and this is one of the issues we discussed. The inhuman way in which gay and bisexual men were treated for simply having a relationship is something our government should not only overturn, but should apologise for as a matter of urgency.”

“The UK presents itself as a modern, diverse and equal society – but the reality remains that the experiences of LGBT people across these islands are hugely different. It is incumbent on not only the Northern Ireland Assembly, but indeed the UK government to ensure that LGBT people living across the UK experience equal dignity and treatment.”

He concluded “We have waited 5 years longer than England for the removal of the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. We are still denied access to same sex marriage and the introduction of legislation to allow for same sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples to jointly apply to adopt has still not occurred. LGBT people in Northern are tired of hearing politicians saying positive things with no follow through. No longer can we continue to be ignored while these islands present themselves as wholly committed to equality. Immediate action must be taken to address the current and historic inequalities experienced by our community.”

MUTED WELCOME FOR REMOVAL OF LIFETIME BLOOD BAN FROM THE RAINBOW PROJECT

MUTED WELCOME FOR REMOVAL OF LIFETIME BLOOD BAN FROM THE RAINBOW PROJECT

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Northern Ireland’s largest LGB&T support and advocacy organisation has welcomed the removal of the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood but has warned that its replacement with a ban on those men who have had sex within the past 12 months means it is unlikely to allow for more than a handful to donate.

Speaking ahead of the first day when donations from gay and bisexual men can be accepted in Northern Ireland, Director of The Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty said: ‘Some media outlets seem to be expecting crowds of gay and bisexual men to line up to donate blood tomorrow. This is not going to happen. While we were hugely thankful to Health Minister Michelle O’Neill for abandoning the illogical approach to blood donations from her predecessors and bringing Northern Ireland into line with the other regions of the UK, we have always said that replacing a lifetime ban with a ban on those who have not had sex within the past 12 months was unlikely to lead to any substantial numbers of gay and bisexual men donating blood because many of them, like the rest of the population have had sex at least once this year.

‘Removing the lifetime ban was the first step in moving towards a blood donation system which is based on the risk posed by potential donors, and not their sexual orientation but there are still irrational barriers placed in the way of gay and bisexual men when they want to donate blood. There are still different criteria for gay and bisexual men than there are for their heterosexual counterparts which we hope will be addressed when SABTO reports later this year.

‘There must be a recognition that two men in a monogamous relationship pose zero risk to the blood supply. They cannot magically create HIV between them. And yet as long as they have sex they will never be allowed to donate blood. This is not science, it is stigma.

‘The Rainbow Project will continue to campaign for a completely risk-based blood donation system where scientific and medical evidence are the only considerations as to who may and may not donate blood.’

ENDS

John O'Doherty with Health Minister Michelle O'Neill MLA
John O’Doherty with Health Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA
The recognition of The Rainbow Project at The Belfast Pride Awards 2016

The recognition of The Rainbow Project at The Belfast Pride Awards 2016

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At this year’s Belfast Pride Awards the Rainbow Project received recognition by winning an award in the following four categories: the Community Action Award, the Community Support of the Year, the Innovation in the LGBT Community Award; which was for the Befriending Programme and the 4th award in partnership with Here NI was the Community Partnership Award which was for the Family Project. We would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for us and the promise we can make to you is to keep working as hard as ever supporting the LGBT community in Northern Ireland.

The Rainbow Project Staff and Volunteers - Delighted to pick up our awards