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Cloe Freeman

Equality activist

My year began with being directly discriminated against for being a woman. I believe, completely unintentionally.

The discrimination, subsequent media interest and social media response, highlighted a lack of public awareness regarding what is now illegal in Jersey under the Discrimination Law. I have since, considered the complexity between encouraging social behaviour (and the cultures surrounding it) and the intention of law.

If we use law to enforce behavioural changes in society and create a new culture supported by shared morals, how are laws supported by public education and increased awareness? I believe within our Island, there is a narrow understanding of what the aim for greater equality and diversity is really asking of our community.

Ex UK Supreme Court Judge, Lord Jonathan Sumption has suggested that law is taking over space once occupied by politics and that the demand for greater personal security means we have less liberty. Regarding the introduction of law in an effort to change societal attitudes, he said:

“These laws are addressed to moral issues, on which people hold a variety of different views. But the law regulates their choices on the principle that their ought to be only one collective moral judgement and not a multiplicity of individual ones.”

This, I believe informs the ideology behind the liberal backlash we see happening in parts of Europe and the US. People feel they are losing

their right to hold opinions and make choices for themselves. The idea of enforced change (no matter how moral the majority might think) creates fear because people no longer know how they are allowed to behave. Some examples of fear I have noticed this year following cases of discrimination include:

• “Men can’t flirt with women anymore; it could be classed as sexual harassment!”

• “People can identify as men or women or non-binary... so what toilet does that mean they use!? I want to identify as a helicopter or a carrot.”

People tend to be more vocal with their opinions when they’re adamant they are right. But we all need to be braver in asking questions when we don’t understand something. It should be common practice for us all to question our inherent biases and not be judged on that questioning.

If we remain silent, we allow things to continue in ways we might not feel comfortable with. We allow for political divides to reach further extremes because only the vocal opinions are heard.

My hope for the future is that I will contribute in any way I can, to a Jersey that is united and proud of its diversity and that is a leader in understanding and enabling equal opportunities.

My leaving thought: Ask the difficult questions. Effectively engage in local politics. Be willing to learn and be willing to be proved wrong.
Be brave. Don’t act on fear, act on compassion.