Merton ceremony marks IDAHOBIT

Dozens of residents, Merton staff, members of the police and councillors turned out to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) outside the Civic Centre in Morden on Tuesday 17 May. 

The theme for this year’s IDAHOBIT is ‘Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights’, and Councillor Michael Brunt, Mayor of Merton, expressed the council’s resounding support for members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the borough. 

“Our LGBTQIA+ residents are part of Merton’s cohesive communities. But they experienced nearly 10% of police reported hate crimes in the last year,” he said before raising the Progress Pride flag and leading a minute’s silence to remember victims of hate crime due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

“They have the right to live in dignity free from any form of abuse today and every day.” 

In one of his last formal addresses as mayor, Cllr Brunt celebrated Merton’s zero tolerance to hate crime, saying “our Community Safety Partnership is fully committed to preventing hate and effectively responding to crimes. 

“I sincerely hope that the next Mayor can evidence the substantial progress, that we have made together, towards eliminating hate crime. I [hope] they can point to less incidents of hate crime affecting our LGBTQIA+ residents because there is less hate in Merton.” 

Chief Inspector Barrie Capper of the Metropolitan Police also addressed the gathering, which included Councillors Ross Garrod and Eleanor Stringer, Council Leader and Deputy Leader elect, acknowledging that his force needed to address issues around LGBTQIA+ matters within its own ranks. 

Sergeant Steven Hales, the LGBT Lead for the South West Basic Command Unit which covers the borough, explained how he had “created a network to promote inclusion [within the police] and also points of contact on hate crime to ensure we deliver a better service to support all victims.” 

Anyone who suffers a hate crime can find out how to report it at: merton.gov.uk/HateCrime

Councillor Garrod said: “I’m proud that I will lead a council that stands shoulder to shoulder with LGBTQIA+ residents against the prejudice and hate that still exists. No one should be ashamed of who they are or who they love.

“We urge anyone who experiences a hate crime to come forward and report to police or the other support services available in our borough – not only so they can get advice and support they need, but also so we can take action to try and prevent these instances from happening again.