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Academic Meets Activist: Decriminalisation Then and Now

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Co-Directors of the HHRG, Dr Amanda Haynes and Jennifer Schweppe along with: Maurice Tomlinson, Vanessa Lacey, Mary Dorcey, Professor Geraldine Moane, and Karl Hayden.

Twenty-five years ago, on June 24 1993, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act was passed decriminalising homosexuality in this jurisdiction. The Hate and Hostility Research Group’s latest ‘Academic Meets Activist’ event, marked the 25th Anniversary of Decriminalisation in Ireland, and highlighted the ongoing struggle for decriminalisation in Jamaica.

The evening consisted of a panel discussion between the co-Directors of the HHRG, Dr Amanda Haynes and Jennifer Schweppe along with: Maurice Tomlinson, Vanessa Lacey, Mary Dorcey, Professor Geraldine Moane, and Karl Hayden.

Mary Dorcey is an award winning Irish novelist, poet and short story writer. Mary was a founding member of Irish Women United, Women for Radical Change and The Movement for Sexual Liberation. Karl Hayden, is a filmmaker, photographer and long-time human, civil and LGBT rights campaigner. Vanessa Lacey, is Health and Education Manager with Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI). Professor Geraldine Moane has contributed to the development of liberation psychology with particular application to women and to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

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Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican lawyer and gay rights activist, enlightened the audience regarding the legal and social position in the Caribbean and the decriminalisation movement in Jamaica. As a senior policy analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network Maurice acts as counsel and/or claimant in cases challenging anti-gay laws before the most senior tribunals in the Caribbean. Maurice was the counsel in Jamaica’s first-ever constitutional challenge to the anti-sodomy law, and when the original claimant was forced to withdraw due to death threats against himself and his family Maurice took over the matter as the new claimant. That case is still pending before the Supreme Court.

Prior to 1993 Irish law criminalised sexual acts between men specifically, and between 1940 and 1978 an average of 13 men a year were jailed for homosexual offences. In the ten year period from 1962 to 1972 there were 455 convictions. The Irish members of the panel provided insights from their experiences as activists and community members into the impact and legacy of criminalisation on the LGBT community in Ireland, discussing the sometimes lasting effects not just on gay and bisexual men, but also on lesbians, bisexual women and trans people. The panel, many of whom had been politically active during this period, shared their personal experiences of the many years of struggle and a decade of legal challenges brought by Senator David Norris and former President Mary Robinson,  which finally led to the introduction of the 1993 Act.

The event ran for twice as long as anticipated as the audience gave rapt attention to recollections which were perceptive, poignant and jubilant, and which embodied the mantra that the personal is political.

The event was supported by the Faculty of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences Teaching and Learning Board; the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the Departments of Sociology and the School of Law; and the UL press office.

Follow HHRG on Twitter: @HHRGatUL



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