The Government’s decision to lift the military ban on lesbians and gays is a welcome first step towards eradicating homophobia from the Armed Forces, according to OutRage!.
But OutRage! warns that deeply entrenched homophobic attitudes will continue to force many gay people out of the services, unless the military authorities take tough new action to combat the victimisation of homosexual personnel.
“Homophobic harassment should be a disciplinary offence under the military code”, says OutRage! spokesperson Peter Tatchell.
“Military training and education programmes should challenge antigay attitudes and encourage acceptance of homosexual servicemen and women.
“What is needed is an educational campaign –similar to the military’s current efforts against racism– to create a safe, sympathetic environment for gay members of the forces.
“Without these initiatives to stamp out queer-bashing, the military will remain a hostile institution. Despite the ending of the ban on gays, homophobic abuse will pressure many homosexuals to resign.”
OutRage! is calling for a crackdown on homophobia as part of a comprehensive action plan to eradicate all forms of prejudice from the Armed Forces and to end the victimisation of recruits from all minority communities.
“The Armed Forces should reflect the democratic, humanitarian values which they exist to defend. Any toleration of homophobia, racism and other prejudices is unacceptable.
“Human rights awareness should be a central part of army education, as it was during the Second World War under the auspices of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. Unless the Armed Forces respect the human rights of their own members, they cannot be relied upon to defend the human rights of the British people”, said Mr. Tatchell.