Referendum Affords Unique Chance to Tackle Bullying and Rejection of LGBT Young People

Homophobic bullying is one of the most pervasive forms of bullying in Irish schools, and the marriage equality referendum presents a unique chance to combat it. That’s according to Michael Barron, Founding Director of BeLonG To, who today (27.04.15) spoke at a BeLonG To YES coalition seminar, which also heard from other leading children’s rights and youth experts.

0
1
Belong To

BeLonG To YES is the largest coalition of children’s and youth organisations supporting a YES vote in the referendum, including the ISPCC, Barnardos, Foróige, Youth Work Ireland, the Migrant Rights Centre, Headstrong, Yes Equality, the Children’s Rights Alliance, Pavee Point, EPIC and the National Youth Council of Ireland, as well as BeLonG To.

Speaking at the event, Michael Barron said: “The Marriage Equality referendum needs to pass – high stakes are at play here for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) young people. BeLonG To’s 12 years’ experience of working with LGBT young people has shown that discrimination contributes significantly to poor mental health, and that many LGBT young people feel excluded, isolated and undervalued.

“In-depth national research ‘Supporting LGBT Lives’, supported by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention and carried out by the Children’s Research Centre at Trinity College, has established that 58 per cent of LGBT young people have endured homophobic abuse, 25 per cent have been threatened with physical violence and 34 per cent have heard homophobic comments from their teachers.

“A ‘no’ vote would be a devastating outcome. It would reconfirm to young LGBT people that their all too common experiences of homophobic bullying and rejection are acceptable in Ireland. We would be telling them that their love does not have the same value as everybody else’s, and it would send a hugely damaging message to young people who are already isolated and discriminated against. We need to do everything we can to ensure a YES vote for this generation and future generations of young people – they need and deserve this from us.”

Marriage Equality: a Children’s Rights Issue

A number of other children’s rights and youth experts spoke at today’s event, including Senator Jillian van Turnhout; Dr Hilary Tierney, Lecturer in Applied Social Studies, NUI Maynooth; and Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout said: “Many of the groups advocating for a YES vote in the Marriage Equality Referendum also advocated for a YES vote in the Children’s Referendum. Children rights organisations advocating a YES vote also campaign tirelessly, not just at referendum time, on real and significant threats to children’s welfare and well-being such as child poverty, homelessness, the housing crisis, children at risk and children’s health. I join the call for a YES vote to send a clear message out to all children in Ireland that they are equal and live in a fair society.”

Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward, said: “All children should be able to develop their potential in all situations and at all times. To do so, it is crucial that they experience no harm because of their sexual identity. It is clear that marriage equality in no way undermines the rights of children. In fact voting YES will send a positive message to all LGBT children that they matter, they are not alone and that when they decide to commit for life, their relationship will be respected.

“The fact that Ireland’s leading youth and children’s organisations have come together to form the BeLonG To YES coalition, shows that we are all keenly aware of the encouraging message a YES vote would send to LGBT young people and the positive impact it would have on their lives.”

The BeLonG To YES campaign will be holding a series of events over the coming weeks, aimed at highlighting how a YES vote will impact positively on children’s and families’ lives. For further information, see www.belongto.org.