Equal Marriage?

equalmarriage

This weekend the ‘UK’ became the 8th state in Europe to legalise same-sex marriage, placing it in a small group alongside Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain. While this is a historic moment, and certainly one to celebrate no matter what your view point on marriage as an institution, it is also a moment to reflect on the progress that has been made, and most importantly, on the progress still to be made.

It is pretty striking that only 8 nations in Europe offer full marriage equality. These countries are more or less neighbours and form the Western section of Europe. It is, however, slightly misleading to consider the UK as a nation of full marriage equality, considering that the law passed only covers England and Wales. Scotland will allow same-sex marriages from Autumn this year onwards, and Northern Ireland does not foresee a discussion in the near future. This is not something unusual, and is in fact similar to the stalemate that Germany finds itself in today.

Marriage equality is, most importantly, not the only yardstick to measure equality by. Legislation counts for one half, but the other half must be counted against public attitude and day-to-day life. While it is great that same-sex couples can marry in a country where it was a crime to even be gay 47 years ago, it is crucial to remember that same-sex couples do not necessary feel safe to behave in public as a straight couple might. Homosexuals still have to consider coming out over and over again, and wonder if it will effect their life at work and other aspects of their daily routine.  Homosexuals are still beaten up and attacked in acts of homophobic violence. Of course, these are problems that affect different people in different areas on numerous levels, but even at a base level, homosexuals still have to endure name-calling, heckling and snide remarks. While marriage equality is a huge step in the right direction, until suicide rates, hate crimes levels and the above listed significantly drop, there is still a lot to fight for. Away from home, and around the world there are plenty of much larger issues and more dangerous circumstances that we must bear in mind. We have not reached a stage where we can rest on our laurels.

Various recent examples include:

On the topic of marriage equality: BBC – “Fifth of Britons would turn down invitation”

On whether ‘marriage equality’ is even a valid term: Buzzfeed – “6 ways the UK still doesn’t have marriage equality”

Perhaps the most powerful presentation of the reality of discrimination: Panti’s Noble Call 

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ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map – 2013

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The ILGA recently posted this ‘Rainbow Map’ to show which countries in Europe provide the best level of human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex residents. From the first glance I was surprised to learn that the UK provides the best human rights at 77% , compared to 66% for Norway, 65% for Sweden, 57% for Denmark and 60% for the Netherlands. I find this difficult to believe as the above 4 countries are well renowned for offering some of the best human rights to people across the LGBTUA+ spectrum.

Legislation doesn’t mean equality or human rights are adhered to and this is a pitfall of this graph. Results from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights survey show just how high homo-/transphobia are in the Western world, despite misconceptions.

To see a larger version of the map click here. 

To see the results from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights click here.

Ps. In an article entitled “Europa lebt die Diskriminierung” (Discrimination lives in Europe) Die Zeit discusses the above mentioned studies and concludes: “Such laws are great. However, at the end of the day, the new EU study shows that it’s not enough to declare equality in the law books. These laws have to actually come alive too.” This is a statement I wholeheartedly agree with as we learn time and time again that legislation is all well and go. Yet it means nothing unless everyone takes it into practise.

White Night (2012)

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A couple of weeks ago the BFI Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (LLGFF) was on on London’s Southbank and due to a tight schedule the only film available to book was White Night, or Baek Ya in Korean. Really we wanted to see Petunia by Ash Christian but unfortunately it was fully booked. Maybe we should have taken this has a sign, but being interested in South Korea and world cinema we decided to give this a go. It turns out White Night was awful. Directed by Leesong Hee-il, one of South Korea’s foremost queer directors, this film is part of a trilogy. To be honest, I am not even sure where or how it went wrong. Yes, there were some beautiful shots of what I could only assume was Seoul. The main characters were attractive and in the background there was a tragic story of homophobia in South Korea, which is what has made Won-Gyu, the returning flight attendant and central protagonist, the cold and deeply unemotional person that he is. I have never seen a character that is so difficult to relate to or to empathise with. This could be where it went wrong – Won-Gyu was such a horrible character that often answered questions with silence and as a result it is difficult to watch and can be difficult to follow. I am intrigued as to the quality of the subtitles as I somehow feel that something was maybe lost in translation.

Attending the Festival really made me feel that it is high time something changes in queer cinema, it can be so predictable and stereotyped – the characters are always damaged, drug users who can’t let anyone in, and while I realise that this is sometimes necessary and an indictment of the homophobia in our society it would be nice to have something either hard hitting but interesting or something lighthearted – Loose Cannons comes to mind. I have seen some very good queer cinema over the last couple of years but unfortunately this falls into the same category as Coming Out and Keep the Lights On

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