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Archive for March 2008

News: March 31st

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In this week's news sample, claims that the Government may be planning to opt out of parts of a UN Convention on the rights of disabled people and news of an extra £15 million committment to encourage the development of women's careers in certain sectors.

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The news that a number of transsexual men have had babies following their transition to manhood has hit the headlines both sides of the Atlantic recently, accompanied by a predictable mix of consternation and curiosity.

The problem with debate on a topic like this is that, whilst people are often quick to voice an opinion, based on the immediate gut reaction they feel, very few of them have much clue about the background facts.

In this episode I explain the legal and medical background, and pick away at some of the unfortunate conclusions that people will jump to.

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It was only originally planned to be a ten minute interview and, if this were a Radio station, then there would have had to be an awful lot of him on the cutting room floor to fit the schedules. When the subject is the Chief Executive of one of the country's leading LGB charities though, and when he's as articulate as Paul Martin, then nothing less than the full half hour will do!

In this wide-ranging interview Paul talks about the background to the Lesbian and Gay Foundation; the reasons why places like Manchester have become centres of LGB culture; the surprising ordinariness of many lesbian and gay people's lives; working for a better society -- and working with each other. Oh .. and he also has a word of advice for the only Gay in the village.

For more about the LGF see www.lgf.org.uk and for a little more background on this interview see the Blog.

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As an experiment I am going to explore the feasibility of bringing an occasional batch of news reports into the mix of editorial and interview content. I'm making no promises about regularity. A great deal will depend on the material that comes my way. Please feel free to comment on whether it's a valuable addition or not though.

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Equality Impact Assessment relies crucially upon being able to predict the effects that a policy or service may have on different groups of people. The range of people and life circumstances we need to consider has got wider, yet we are all limited by our own experiences. We can't second guess the effects of service arrangements on policies in situations outside our knowledge. Consultation is therefore essential, but that comes with its own pitfalls too...

You can read the transcript of this item in the accompanying Blog.

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Talk about Human Rights is sometimes dismissed as 'Political Correctness gone mad' in certain quarters -- mainly a particular section of the tabloid press. There are even some politicians who'd claim the whole idea is in some way alien to our values and culture.

I find that kind of argument worrying, and I think everyone else should think carefully about what such talk could lead to. In this episode I explain what Human Rights actually represent, and how they are values that we would sorely miss if they were absent in our lives. I've also been out on the streets with my microphone to hear what other people have to say.

The discipline that Human Rights principles give us is undoubtedly political. The values are undoubtedly correct. But is that a madness? You decide.

You can read the transcript of this item in the accompanying Blog.

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People talk a lot these days about "Equality and Diversity". The expression just trips off the tongue. But does that pairing obscure what the two words mean individually, and how do the two relate?

In this item I explain that Equality and Diversity are not the "Ant and Dec" of law and social inclusion -- distinguished only by the order in which they stand. They're different concepts, allbeit co-related ones.

You can read the transcript of this item in the accompanying Blog

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Learning by rote how to talk about and consult with different groups in society is like limiting yourself to conversing in a foreign language with a phrasebook. You're likely to be stumped or get into hot water the moment you encounter a situation that's unfamilar.

In this item I make the case for learning the 'grammar' of diversity instead. When you understand the grammar of a language then all you need to extend your reach is a bit of extra vocabulary.

You can read a transcript of this item in the accompanying Blog.

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Women’s Work?

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Why do comparatively few women pursue careers in computer related technology and should we be concerned that they don't?

As a computer professional turned equality and diversity specialist I don't have any simple answers, but I highlight in this piece the reasons why women have as much a role to play as men, and some of the things we should perhaps be looking at to tackle the huge gender imbalance in the parts of the industry where women could be tackling better paid roles.

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When a well-known actress was invited to audition for the part of a transsexual woman the casting director was worried she might be insulted. The assumption provides a vivid example of the way in which people may think about this tiny but little understood minority.

The one hour comedy drama "Mrs Inbetweeny" was created by Caleb Ranson and Paul Abbott and stars Amelia Bullmore, who has a string of British TV acting and writing credits to her name. The part of 'Emma' is an unusually strong portrayal of someone who has 'transitioned' from one sex to the other. Inevitably such a part holds immense challenges for any actor approaching the role: What experience can they draw upon to make the portrayal authentic?

Amelia kindly agreed to meet with me to discuss these points over lunch at her home in South London...

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The extent of hate crime is as extraordinary as it is unacceptable. According to the British Crime Survey, as many as 260,000 racially motivated and religiously aggravated hate crimes were committed in the UK last year. That's not counting the 3 million women who are on the receiving end of some kind of gender-based violence, or the emerging statistics about violence and abuse experienced by LGBT people.

The Crown Prosecution Service has launched a national hate crime strategy and I was invited to speak in December at a conference staged with the North West Community Engagement Network, where the specific issue of disability hate crime was the focus.

Bullying, abuse and exploitation of disabled people has become more visible recently, following cases reported in the press. This item is based on my speech at the event, as Chair of the North West Equality and Diversity Group.

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Migration is a topic that keeps coming back to the top of the political and policy agenda these days. One moment it's tabloid scares about Polish pregnancies (simply not supported by the statistics); the next day broadsheets carry more sober accounts about the economy's essential need for more specialist skilled migrants.

This item is based on a speech which I delivered at the conference: Migrant Workers in the North West - One Year On (29th Feb 2008). Thanks are due to Steve Barwick for original material and to Denise McDowell and her colleagues in "Migrant Workers North West" who provided the platform and a great day's conference enjoyed by several hundred delegates.

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Birds do it, Bees do it but should educated company executives be doing it? Podcast producer and consultant Christine Burns offers a jargon-free insight into whether this is a communications medium that can work for your own company.

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