Charities Stonewall and LGBT Youth Scotland have spoken out against comments made at an online women’s conference.
A member of the newly-formed Alba Party has been accused of spreading homophobic falsehoods pertaining to two government-funded LGBTQ+ charities. Speaking at an online women’s conference on Saturday 10 April, Margaret Lynch, an Alba Party candidate for Central Scotland, reportedly claimed LGBTQ+ groups, Stonewall and LGBT Youth Scotland, were campaigning to lower the age of consent to 10.
According to a recent statement given by the Alba Party regarding this issue, Lynch’s comments refer to two specific clauses from a feminist declaration made by the Women’s Rights Caucus last year which both pertain to individual bodily autonomy. The two clauses directly quoted in this statement read as follows:
“A. Eliminate all laws and policies that punish or criminalize same-sex intimacy, gender affirmation, abortion, HIV transmission non-disclosure and exposure, or that limit the exercise of bodily autonomy, including laws limiting legal capacity of adolescents, people with disabilities or other groups to provide consent to sex or sexual and reproductive health services or laws authorizing non-consensual abortion, sterilisation, or contraceptive use; […].
“G. End the criminalisation and stigmatisation of adolescents’ sexuality, and ensure and promote a positive approach to young people’s and adolescents’ sexuality that enables, recognises, and respects their agency to make informed and independent decisions on matters concerning their bodily autonomy, pleasure and fundamental freedoms.”
The Caucus is comprised of over 200 organisations, including ILGA World (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), which is the umbrella association that represents, among well over 1000 others, Stonewall Scotland and LGBT Youth Scotland. Responding to this controversy, the Association stated: “ILGA World categorically, and in no uncertain terms, does not advocate to eliminate or lower the general age of consent, nor supports paedophilia in any way, shape or form – and never has.”
Regarding the nature of these comments as they pertain to the above clauses, as well as the connection of these charities to the declaration, LGBT Youth Scotland gave a response, stating:
“These accusations appear to stem from a feminist declaration that was written last year by a coalition of more than 200 international feminist organisations working to advance women’s rights. It was not written by LGBT+ organisations explicitly, though ILGA World supported the declaration on its launch. LGBT Youth Scotland is a member of the ILGA World federation, along with more than 1,600 other organisations from over 150 countries and territories. At no point were we asked to sign up to this document and our organisation is not referenced. The connection to LGBT Youth Scotland is therefore tenuous.
“Importantly, these allegations have been strongly refuted by ILGA World. Overall, the declaration touches on many subjects, and one of its core aims is to eliminate violence against women and girls, including preventing child abuse. This is therefore a wilful misinterpretation and bad faith reading of the document that serves only to attack the LGBT+ community.
“To highlight only the LGBT+ organisations from a long list of connected groups, making assumptions that their aim is to lower the age of consent, is an act of prejudice and discrimination that repeats harmful myths from the past about LGBT+ people being sexual predators.”
Lynch’s comments have been met with criticism, mirroring these sentiments not only from the above groups, but also several other organisations, LGBTQ+ activists, and MPs. Austin Sheridan, a former SNP councillor in Glasgow, announced the withdrawal of his support of the Alba Party as a result.
Others have claimed Lynch’s comments reflect similar tactics that have historically been used to suppress LGBTQ+ groups. In a recent public statement addressing these claims, Stonewall CEO, Nancy Kelley, and director of Stonewall Scotland and Northern Ireland, Colin Macfarlane, stated: “In making these accusations, [Lynch] is repeating deeply harmful myths about LGBT+ people as paedophiles and sexual predators. It’s the oldest trick in the homophobic book of lies. This kind of language has a long, dark history of being used to paint us as threats to children and stop us from being treated as equal citizens. These myths are used to bully, intimidate and silence LGBT+ people.”
Alba Party leader, Alex Salmond, has since spoken out in defence of Lynch in an Alba Party public statement, referring to the inciting comments as exemplary of how “people often do and say foolish things” during the course of a campaign, and furthermore stating that he would never allow homophobic rhetoric in the party. He has also condemned the abuse Lynch received online following the conference, stating that Lynch and others who attended the conference and expressed their views “are entitled to do so without being subjected to Twitter pile-ons or, even worse, threats of violence”.
Speaking with the Glasgow Guardian, the Glasgow University LGBTQ+ Society (GULGBTQ+) gave the following statement:”The declaration Margaret Lynch transmitted last Saturday was untruthful and detrimental for the LGBTQ+ community. This attempted association of the LGBTQ+ community with paedophilia with the intent of harming and tainting the reputation of the LGBTQ+ community is not new, but it is still disheartening. These kind of affirmations deeply upset and affect the real lives of LGBTQ+ people and we firmly demand the retraction of Lynch’s comments and an apology to the community. Finally, we wholeheartedly stand by and support Stonewall and LGBT Youth Scotland, and the work they do with ILGA World for the LGBTQ+ community.”