I was in the audience at ABC’s Q & A (Monday 06/10/2014) and I listened to the question from Ms. Stevens to Bob Katter about denying /homosexuality and the links to stigma and mental illness. Everyone cheered. The feeling of everyone’s passion to overcome injustice and to recognise individual rights in that one space was emotionally overwhelming.
Dr. Louise Byrne’s response about overcoming stigma and explaining to others what her job was, which exposes her illness, speaks to the face of real action on reducing stigma.
Every time I see anti-burqa posts on my newsfeed, in letters to the editor, on forum posts, my heart sinks. I believe that narrative shapes society. What we choose to express, publish and share and how we position ourselves in conversation, shapes society.
I find that all such anti-burqa posts and comments advocate stigma.
Ms. Stevens put to Katter, “that your reluctance to address homosexuals as well as their civil rights is quite detrimental to their mental health”. This question can be used again and again, replacing homosexuals with other marginalized groups and the answer should be that it is unequivocally unacceptable.
Hundreds of women are being vilified, ostracized and attacked violently in Australia, simply for wearing religious/cultural coverings. Women in particular are being targeted for attacks; women who deserve a space in our society, the same as everyone else. Why are sections of our community intent on condemning, vilifying and advocating violence against such a small minority of women; when there is no evidence that the wearing of any cultural/religious covering has threatened our security or way of life?
Growing up in the very racist 70’s and 80’s and working in community mental health in the 90s, has shown me that stigma has the negative consequences of denial of freedom of expression, mobility, achievement, integration and community contribution.
I have followed the burqa debate for a number of years and the same arguments pop up. On the issue of security, the same concern is not expressed about men in full faced beards and hats or men in suits, beards and sunglasses; but only of women expressing their individual freedom to pay respect to their religion or culture.
Then there are those who post snippets from the Koran as ‘evidence’ and boast ‘they have read the Koran.’
I think people who have a misplaced fear of women who wear any cultural religious covering, should refrain from expressing their bigotry and hatred and step away from studying parts of the Koran and go to the library and read the following books:
Maybe these bigots and advocates of hatred and violence may want to publish their thoughts and interpretation of each book below and if it has affected their thinking on civil rights and freedom in our society.
image sourced from: http://annamariacom.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/ban-burqa-mural-in-newtown.html