Societies around the world have gone through so many changes, take LGBTQ+ rights as an example. Some countries have accepted the LGBTQ+ community and some have not. The British community is one society that has undergone a variety of changes throughout the 21st Century. Here are only some of the movements that have happened in the UK.
This movement has been around longer than some may think as it was founded in 2006 by Tarana Burke. Being a survivor herself, Burke began the campaign for women of colour to come forward with their stories of sexual abuse. It was in 2017 when cases of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein that the #METOO became global. Alyssa Milano, an American Actress and Activist, tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Overnight, Milano had thousands of replies to her Tweet and thus the #metoo movement virally began. Many people came forward with their stories and experiences, as well as celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Asia Argento. However, this movement is not only limited to women, it has shed light on male, trans and other gender victims. For example, Terry Crews opened up about when he was sexually assaulted by an unnamed higher power in 2016. Burke’s campaign has helped millions of people overcome their experiences and has created a community where people can freely open up with their stories and know that they are not alone.
Black Lives Matter
Similar to #metoo, the Black Lives Matter movement started on social media after George Zimmerman was found innocent of murdering Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old, a 2013. Many around the globe were enraged by this decision and one single post on Facebook that contained: “Black Lives Matter” Started seven years of activism. The phrase was soon turned into a hashtag and a global organisation was founded by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors. In 2014, Eric Garner was killed due to being in a chokehold by a police officer, a video went viral of Garner saying: “I can’t breathe.” A month later, Michael Brown was shot by another police officer. This sparked protests that lasted days after Garner’s death as the officers were not punished for what they did, in New York some protesters carried coffins. In 2015 more black lives were taken, including Walter Scott who was shot five times. The officer who shot him was sentenced to 20 years in jail. Also in that year a mass amount of transgender people were killed with: “Almost all of them transgender women of colour.”
Later in 2016, sports stars began to protest for Black Lives Matter. For example Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for San Francisco 49ers, knelt during the American national anthem as a protest against police brutality. Many sports players followed Kaepernick with kneeling during games, in which Donald Trump retaliated at one of his public speeches. Trump said: “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.” Kneeling down expanded from being a protest at sports games to many people doing it on social media. Although, Kaepernick has not been the first person to use kneeling as a form of protesting. In 2014 Ariyana Smith, who was a student at Knox College, knelt on the basketball court whilst the national anthem played and once she stood up she saluted and left the court. Also in 2014, LeBron James and many other basketball players wore tops that had ‘I can’t breathe’ printed on them.
Two years later, a 2018 study showed that since the Black Lives Matter campaign started in 2013, social media users had utilised the #Blacklivesmatter hashtag around 30 million times. Add on another two years and extreme protests broke out in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. Floyd was pinned down to the floor by police officers on the street in Minnesota. The officers had Floyd pinned by his neck, cutting off his air supply, and George Floyd died around 30 minutes later. Similar to Eric Garner, Floyd repeatedly told the officers that he was unable to breathe. The following protests happened globally with many taking part in Trafalgar Square, London. There was a lot of backlash against these protests as the world was going through a global pandemic because of Coronavirus. In June, John Boyega famously made a speech at Hyde Park, he knew that he was risking the future of his acting career but he bravely spoke out about his own experience with racism. Racism and discrimination is still something that happens in society around the world and may take a long time to abolish. However, with campaigns like Black Lives Matter, the world can be a better place.
The social movement sets out to bring equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community in all aspects of life. Before 70 years ago, having anything other than a heterosexual relationship was seen as a sin and those who were would have been classed as criminals and shunned upon. In 1967, Parliament administered the Sexual Offences Act which let men over the age of 21 have homosexual relationships without being criminalised. (In 2001, the age was lowered to 16 for both homosexual and heterosexual relationships.) Two years later, things were not looking good in the US. In 1969 police raided a gay bar in New York, the Stonewall Inn, as alcohol and same-sex acts in public were illegal at the time. After the raid, many days of protests and riots broke out. As terrible as this raid was, it was an eye-opener for some of the straight community. A year after, the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was formed and some UK residents brought the campaign to the Britain.
In 1972, the first UK pride march happened and the first gay newspaper was released, Gay News. Around a decade later, the first person to have AIDS was diagnosed in the UK. In 1982 an AIDS charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust, and was the first charity to support people with AIDS. Due to a national fear of AIDS, homosexual men were banned from donating blood. Towards the end of the 80’s, section 28 of the Local Government Act stated that local authorities cannot: “intentionally promote homosexuality.” (this got revoked in 2002). However, the 90’s offered a lot more support for the LGBTQ+ community with the creation of Outrage! This was a campaign to battle against discrimination and violence that the LGBTQ+ community faced. The campaign was involved with the Bolton Seven case. Outrage! lasted until 2011. Up until the 90’s, being anything other than straight was seen as a mental disorder but the World Health Organisation (WHO) eradicated this. Another campaign that was started up in the 90’s was Mermaids. They help children understand their gender and reduce a youth’s fear about being transgender, non-binary or another gender.
Furthermore, to kickstart the new century, the UK government lifted the ban on gay people being restricted to serving in the military. Then two years later, the Adoption and Children Act (2002) let same sex couples adopt children. Next, the Gender Recognition Act (2004) was introduced and let people over the age of 18 be recognised as the gender they want. Additionally, the Equality Act (2010) made it so people’s gender, sexual orientation and marriage will not be discriminated against in a professional workplace. Fast forward to 2019, the World Health Organisation eradicated another diagnosis as up until two years ago being transgender was seen as having a mental disorder.
The UK has come a long way from criminalising LGBTQ+ people to them now being an equal among society and not outcasted. There are still gaps in society but there is time to fill those gaps.
UK Occupy movement
The US had the first ‘Occupy’ movement with ‘Occupy Wall Street’. This was a protest that happened in New York in 2011, people marched: “against the excesses of Wall Street greed.” In the same year, ‘Occupy London’ began with protestors gathering at St Paul’s Churchyard in October and camping there. People participated in the protest for similar reasons as those in the US did, to show they are against: “corporate greed.” St Paul’s Cathedral had to close due to the 2000-3000 people camped outside; the camping lasted for just over four months. It was not only London where these protests happened, they also occurred in Scotland and Ireland. A study conducted by YouGov showed that: “43% of the Great British public supported the aims of the protest.” Some time after four months, the high court ruled that the campsite must be cleared and so protesters peacefully packed up their tents. Soon after the effects of the protest began to show as Stephen Hester, boss of RBS, gave up his £1 million bonus as well as Lloyds Bank not giving some of its staff their bonuses. Life changing effects from this social movement may take a while as people were wanting (and maybe still are) to demolish capitalism and there are still inequalities in the British society when it comes to wealth. However, some time in the future, the gap between these inequalities may begin to close.
Reclaim These Streets
After Sarah Everard’s remains were found last Wednesday, women across the nation have been speaking up about the fear and harassment they face when walking the streets alone. Research conducted by YouGov stated that 52% of women have been sexually harassed by a male. It is not just an issue that is only occurring in the UK, the study also stated that 66% of women asked in Sweden have also been sexually harassed. What is even worse is that it is not limited to the outdoors. A study by Trades Union Congress stated that women face sexual jokes, unwanted touching and sexual comments in their workplace; a place they should feel safe. Women have used social media to voice their own experiences with walking home alone and sexual harassment. On Saturday 13th March, hundreds of people turned up at Clapham Common to pay respect to Sarah and support Reclaim These Streets.
However, the Clapham Common vigil may not have been as peaceful as some had hoped. Supporters and police officers clashed during the event. There is footage of police putting women in handcuffs and leading them away. This has caused an uproar among the British population with some people calling for Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, to be fired. Some other places around the UK were going to hold vigils similar to Clapham Common but they got cancelled due to Coronavirus. For example, in Glasgow there were going to be four different vigil sites. To compensate for not being able to host the events outside, some moved online and became virtual. During Saturday night, people all across the UK left a candle on their doorstep to pay respect to Sarah Everard and her family.
Moreover, it has not been just women that have supported this movement. Men have also turned to social media and shared their experiences on how they make women feel safer at night. They have also used their social media accounts to ask women on how men can make them feel safer. Influential people have also come forward with their own experiences, British athlete Sabrina Sinha was interviewed by the BBC about hers. As much as these vigils and shared stories are to bring light on the horrors that women have gone through, they also call for authorities and the government to do something about violence against women.