Croydon Councillor Mark Watson wants an official apology for victims of gay discrimination in the borough after a new law pardoned thousands of men who had been prosecuted for homosexuality received the Royal Assent last month . As the number of homophobic hate crimes in Croydon has grown, the council has taken measures to increase tolerance in relation to sexual equality issues.
Mark Watson, council cabinet member for economy and jobs, supported the new law but feels the victims of persecution deserve more, as he told the Croydon Advertiser.
He said: “I think there needs to be recognition not only that these people weren’t criminals, which is fine, but that the whole system was wrong. There needs to be an apology.”
Watson, born in 1966, has been campaigning for gay rights since1988. He is also a victim of homosexual discrimination, who previously was forcefully separated from his gay partner and was at risk of getting a criminal record
Watson could not marry his partner Ander Da Silva in the early 1990s because at that time gay marriages were not permitted. His partner was forced to leave the UK, as Brazilian citizens required a residence permit to stay. Watson tried to file the necessary documents to stay together with his partner, but then was sent to prison. He was charged with ‘gross indecency’ and later on lost his job.
Before the 2013 law to allow gay marriages homosexuals lived with the risk of unequal and discriminatory status in the society. Before 1967 all gay activities were seen as criminal and illegal.
According to Metropolitan Police statistics, LGBT hate crime rates have increased by 10 % since 2015 in Croydon. However, Watson remains optimistic in his predictions.
He said to the Croydon Advertiser: “Croydon has never been unfriendly to gay people in my experience, and that’s great. We probably have the most LGBT asylum seekers anywhere, and the borough welcomes them.”‘
As an LGBT activist Watson has been busy raising awareness of the issue within the borough. Before Christmas 2016 he organised CroydonPride fest and has raised money for LGBT refugees, and has tweeted to supporters.
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