More controversy from Stonewall

I’m not surprised to read that a recent interview in the Guardian with Ruth Hunt (CEO of Stonewall) caused a bit of a stir. As a commenter on Pink News pointed out, interviewer Decca Aitkenhead seemed to be channelling Brendan O’Neill here:

On the face of it, the [No Bystanders] campaign is blamelessly admirable. “It’s about taking personal responsibility to create a kinder environment in which we can all exist.” But it comes dangerously close, I suggest, to policing people’s private thoughts and feelings.

The campaign looks fine to me, and seems very clearly targeted at those who overhear abusive remarks and fail to intervene, *not* at policing private thoughts.

Hunt then went on to complain about what she sees as the ill-judged targeting of The Dorchester because of Brunei’s laws against homosexual acts:

What gay people in Brunei tell Stonewall, Hunt explains, is that sharia law is in fact much easier for them, because you need witnesses, so fewer will be prosecuted than under the old law. “The important campaigning issues around sharia law in Brunei are actually about women. So posh, rich, white western gays saying: ‘What about the gays in Brunei?’ is singularly the most unhelpful thing we could do.”

Considering she is the CEO of Stonewall, this seems an odd response to put it mildly.  That is not to say that her substantive point might not be accurate – that Sharia law in Brunei has a more devastating impact on women than on LGBT people.  But lots of people supported that campaign against the Dorchester – and not all the LGBT backers of a boycott would have been posh, white and rich.  It’s difficult to campaign for every issue at once, and focusing on one area need not imply indifference to others – although in fact those calling for a boycott did not ignore misogyny. Here’s part of the text of one petition

Amongst other horrors, these new laws punish consensual same-sex relationships with death by stoning and call for the imprisonment of women who give birth out of wedlock. Women impregnated through rape can avoid prison only if they prove in court that they were victimised.

And – given that some will have focused their energies on the LGBT angle of course – it seems particularly odd that the CEO of Stonewall should object to this kind of single issue campaigning.

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