Pride Merton event is set to take place next July
There has been a rise in hate crimes of all kinds in Merton and it’s thought that education is the key to combating the abuse.
Staff at the The Merton LGBT Forum say they are not sure whether an increase of homophobic and transphobic crimes is simply down to more people reporting it or points to something far more worrying.
In 2018/19 there were 330 reports of hate crimes in the borough made to police. This is an increase from 313 in the previous year.
Of these, 238 were racial hate, 30 faith based, 34 homophobic, nine disability hate crimes and nine transphobic.
And Merton saw a 17% increase in hate crimes in 2017/18 compared to the year before. At a council meeting last week, Councillor Laxmi Attawar presented a paper on hate crime.
She said: “Whilst there is plenty in Merton we can be proud of, I realise this is a subject that does not stand still and there is always more that can be done.
“While Merton is a relatively safe borough the hate crime against the LGBTQ community is marginally higher than religious hate crime.
“This is about education and changing people’s perception about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable language.
“I am keen to work with safer Merton on this education to bridge the gap and show that this is definitely not political correctness gone mad.
“Everyone has a right to live the way they choose, to feel safe and be truly integrated into the community without being judged.”
Earlier this year the borough’s first gay bar, CMYX, in Wimbledon opened and a rainbow crossing was unveiled in front of it.
Ms Attawar also announced that a Pride Merton event will take place next July with discussions at an ‘advanced stage’.
Secretary of the Merton LGBT Forum, Patrick Lyster-Todd, said that while traditionally hate crime in the borough has been among the lowest in London the increase could point to something more worrying.
But he said reporting has got better thanks to initiatives in the borough including Safer Merton.
“Many people who experience LGBT+ hate crime have, traditionally, been hesitant to report it for a variety of reasons – uncertainty about how to do this, lack of confidence or self-esteem and, especially, concerns for their own confidentiality,” said Mr Lyster-Todd.
“The other side is, unfortunately, something that many of us will be aware of and is usually based on prejudice or ignorance.
“Some of this will have its roots in cultural and/or religious differences. You only have to read the continuing stories emanating from Birmingham regarding teaching in primary schools to realise that this remains a difficult issue.”
He added that bullying of LGBT+ children still remains a problem in some schools.
Mr Lyster-Todd said: “More education is undoubtedly one of the best ways to combat the rise of hate crimes.
“Positive role models, in particular, are vital for young people – but these also need to be people who young people can recognise, look up to and follow.”
He said that this is ‘well provided’ in the world of music and fashion but lacking in sport, pointing to gay USA footballer Megan Rapinoe as an inspiration.
By Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
July 17, 2019