Kezia Dugdale: “‘Turing Bill’ landmark for Scotland, but we must remind ourselves it doesn’t apply to women”
MSP gives speech celebrating Bill but urges government not to forget LBT women
IMAGE: KEZIA DUGDALE MSP
The Equality Network, the Scottish LGBTI equality charity, today welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government’s Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill.
The bill provides a pardon for people who were convicted of the historical discriminatory “homosexual offences” between men, which are no longer crimes. It also provides a way for people with these convictions to have them removed from their criminal records (called a “disregard”) so that they do not appear on criminal record checks for jobs and volunteer posts.
However, Kezia Dugdale, Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Lothian Region and former leader of the Scottish Labour Party, today gave a speech urging the Scottish Parliament to extend the apology to LBT women.
Although sex between women was never criminalised in this way in Scotland, Dugdale believes that the government should publicly recognise how LBT women were similarly ostracised by society - facing discrimination and violence just as men did.
In a speech delivered to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Dugdale told the Presiding Officer:
“Today we apologise to Scotland’s gay and bisexual men for criminalising their love of sex and their love for each other - but it’s worth reminding ourselves why the apology doesn’t apply to women.
“The reality is that it has never been a crime for two women to be together.
“The history books teach us that lawmakers did try, in fact the House of Commons passed an amendment in 1921 to make sex between two women illegal but it was rejected by the House of Lords - because they didn’t want ordinary women to know that such a thing existed.
“Very often women had to pass as men to live their lives and if they were caught, they were sometimes convicted of fraud. Most were not criminalised for their love of each other, but they were still punished.
“They were both invisible and demeaned. Ostracised from their communities and families. Punished and painted out of history.
“Yet through the years, women and men, gay and straight. Intersex, trans and non-binary. Of all ethnicities and races. All faiths and none - have marched together. Demanding tolerance and respect with pride and passion.
“That March has led us here today. This apology is the product of their work. Their sweat and tears. And I thank them deeply and personally for it.”
Dugadale, who currently co-chairs cross party groups for Children and Young People, LGBTI+ and Sexual Health, also acknowledged that while homosexuality is no longer illegal, and “we should be proud of our journey”, we “should not be complacent”.
Additionally, the Scottish bill covers all the offences that were in the past used in this discriminatory way, including where men were convicted for “importuning” – simply for chatting up other men. The legislation in the rest of the UK does not currently cover those convictions.
SNP MP Stewart McDonald has welcomed the publication of Scotland’s 'Turing Bill' - and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's historic statement of apology - as an important milestone for LGBTI equality that “will help Scotland move forward”.
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