Priti Patel using LGBT+ and women’s rights to sweeten cruel policing bill, critics say

Priti Patel smirking

Priti Patel has been accused of “window dressing” with LGBT+ and women’s rights to push through her terrifying Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The bill, which among many other things would increase stop-and-search and surveillance by police, limit protests, and restrict the movement of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, has faced fierce and widespread opposition since it was first proposed, with “Kill the Bill” marches sweeping the UK.

Last month, the government put forward changes to the bill, which heads back to the House of Commons next week, adding in pardons for historic homosexual convictions.

Tyler Hatwell, the founder of LGBT Travellers Pride, told Open Democracy: “I find it very offensive. It’s window dressing. It’s purely symbolic.

“I’m not saying that wrongs shouldn’t be righted, but it feels like an absurd thing to be focusing on that rather than some of the more existential issues facing LGBT+ people today.”

In January, more than 80 activists, political figures, celebrities and rights groups demanded that the bill be voted down in order to “uphold protest rights and protect the progress made toward LGBT+ equality”.

Protest has been a vital catalyst for change when it comes to LGBT+ rights in the UK, and Hatwell said that the addition of pardons for those convicted of homosexual crimes was a “divide and conquer” tactic, making it harder for politicians to reject the entire bill.

“The government wants to split off LGBT+ people from any movement against the draconian police bill,” he added.

Priti Patel says her policing bill protects women, while refusing to make misogyny a hate crime

Other measures slipped in by the government include banning taking photos of breastfeeding mothers in public, extending the time limit for reporting domestic violence from six months to two years, and banning those convicted of online racism from attending football matches for up to 10 years.

But on Monday (21 February), Priti Patel announced that she was rejecting calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime by the bill, ironically describing it as a “tokenistic” move.

Again, the idea that the government is working to protect women’s rights with the policing bill is an illusion, activists say.

Speaking to Open Democracy, Lady Phyll, activist icon and the founder of UK Black Pride, said: “What of the Black women who die during childbirth in the UK at rates of four to one [compared] to white women?

“What of the physical violence women across the UK experience at the hands of the police?

“What good does it do to ban a racist from a football match, if the police are empowered to beat, detain and harm Black people and people of colour without impunity?

“What good does [it] do when services that would uplift Black people and people of colour in this country, like mental health services, continue to be under- or defunded?”

On the pardoning of gay people convicted of homosexual crimes, she added: “What good does wiping records of homosexual activity do? These records should not exist in the first place, and homophobia and homophobic violence are on the rise in the UK.”

Lady Phyll noted that the government’s controversial Sewell Report, which denied the existence of institutional racism and was labelled a “gross offence” by a leading race equality think tank, ignored evidence of racism’s impact on LGBT+ people that was put forward by UK Black Pride and other groups.

She added: “We deserve a government that looks at and treats its LGBT+ citizens as the diverse and deserving citizens it’s elected to serve.”