LGBT CAMDEN: ‘Why we must speak up for Stonewall'

OPINION by Cllr Rishi Madlani

Friday, 25th February — By Cllr Rishi Madlani

rishi madlani

Camden Council’s LGBT+ Champion Rishi Madlani offers a view as LGBT+ History Month comes to an end

For instance, my ward, Bloomsbury, is home to Gay’s the Word – the UK’s oldest LGBT+ bookstore, where Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners once met and was home to the Bloomsbury Group, who pushed LGBT+ boundaries in their time.

We are now lucky to be home to charities such as forum+, celebrating their 20th birthday, which works across Camden and Islington to promote equality for LGBT+ people as well as providing services to support victims of hate crimes.

With this history it took me time to understand how to bring my lived experiences as an LGBT+ person of colour and campaigner to support the work of the council – and today I’m delighted to share some of the outputs of our work.

Just over three years ago we took the decision to actively engage in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. This week, I am proud to share that Camden Council has ranked 47th in the UK and as the top-rated local authority.

This is a significant improvement from our first entry which saw us rank 250 from more than 500 entries.

Whilst I am pleased to share progress, this comes as slightly bitter-sweet.

The last two years have seen a number of coordinated attacks on Stonewall who have been and remain one of the leading UK LGBT+ charities and there has been co-ordinated pressure on organisations to either not participate in the workplace indices or be part of their workplace schemes.

It is in the face of these attacks that it is extra important for the council and local authorities around the country, from London to Leicester, to show political leadership by engaging with these exercises and to show their vocal support for Stonewall.

Primarily, the indices are labour-intensive but useful exercises. Without the workplace index process, when do council officers look comprehensively through all the policies across a borough with an LGBT+ lens?

Through the feedback sessions with Stonewall, both the inclusion team and our excellent LGBT+ staff network get insights to our strengths and weaknesses so that we can focus our activities the following year.

Furthermore, we get access to best practice across UK workplaces and in local government.

As the Borough LGBT+ Champion I find this insight invaluable to get a snapshot of progress – rather than just a qualitative feeling.

This year, in the face of much unfair criticism of Stonewall and knee-jerk decisions being taken by organisations in Camden and across the country, it is extra important that councils show their support for the Stonewall workplace index and diversity champion programmes.

I would argue that, the current attacks distract from the vital work we still need to do, such as getting LGBT+ conversion therapy banned and improving the experiences of our trans and non-binary siblings who face sustained attack.

Only last month was the UK discussed in the same breath as Poland, Hungary and Russia around legal rights for the trans community.

We also need to continue to innovate and drive LGBT+ equality through all our work in local government – especially in healthcare and education; there is still much to do and the demonisation of Stonewall has to stop.

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