Northern Ireland remains in the 'dark ages' on Gay Rights - Campaigner

Northern Ireland continues to have a poor reputation on gay rights among the LGBT community in other parts of the UK.

That’s according to journalist and campaigner Patrick Strudwick, who is due in Belfast on Monday (30 July) evening to deliver the Amnesty International Belfast Pride Lecture at the start of Pride Week.

"Sadly, Northern Ireland has a reputation as still being in the Dark Ages when it comes to gay rights,” says award-winning journalist Strudwick, contributing editor and columnist for Gay Times.

“Whether it be the negative and worsening attitudes recently exposed by the Equality Commission survey, or political opposition to equal marriage rights or the continuing Ministerial ban on gay people giving blood, Northern Ireland is not seen as a happy destination for gay people looking for a care-free weekend break.

“Northern Ireland is missing out on the ‘pink pound’ because gay people in the likes of London don’t want to visit a place where homophobia is alive and well in private attitudes and public policy. We would rather spend our holidays – and our money – in places like Edinburgh or Dublin.

“It is no surprise that Northern Ireland is one of the only places in western Europe where bogus 'gay conversion therapy' is still taken seriously by some people, including within churches and politics. That was one of the revelations which followed my exposé of so-called ‘gay cures’. If Northern Ireland wants to lose its anti-gay reputation, then it needs to finally shake off old attitudes which perpetuate discrimination.

In 2010 Patrick Strudwick published “The Ex-Gay Files: The Bizarre World of Gay-to-Straight Conversion”, chronicling a year of undercover investigation of therapists claiming to be able to 'convert' gays and lesbians to heterosexuality.

Strudwick's exposé shone a spotlight on the activities of therapists such as Dr Paul Miller, a psychiatrist and adviser to a former Northern Ireland MP, Iris Robinson.

Following Strudwick's investigation, the British Medical Association passed a motion condemning attempts to change a patient's sexual orientation, while Dr Miller was sanctioned by the General Medical Council, who imposed eight conditions upon his practice.

Strudwick will speak about his investigation into 'gay conversion therapy' and how that is used here and across the world as an attempt to negate gay identity and human rights for gay people. In some countries, 'gay conversion therapy' is used as a form of punishment, sometimes amounting to torture, against gay people.

Patrick Strudwick is contributing editor and columnist for Gay Times, and has also written for The Observer, The Times, The Guardian and The Independent.

The Amnesty International Belfast Pride Lecture, The Dangerous World of Gay 'Cures', takes place on Monday 30 July at 7:30pm in the Europa Hotel, Belfast, with free admission. The lecture will be followed by a debate session chaired by William Crawley.

According to recently published research by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, over a quarter of people (27%) in Northern Ireland would mind a gay, lesbian or bisexual person living next door, compared to 14% in 2005, with 42% unhappy about them becoming an in-law, a rise of 13 percentage points over the last six years. Further information is available at www.equalityni.org/dymmsurvey

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