Monday, January 01, 2007


Schools that fail to show enthusiasm in rooting out prejudice against homosexuals should be reported to the police by pupils and parents, a Home Office report recommended yesterday. It called for parents and children to identify schools that ignore "homophobic" language in the playground and teachers who produce "homophobic" lessons. And it called for head teachers to bring lessons about "homophobia" on to school timetables and to involve their pupils in gay "awareness weeks".

The advice from Home Secretary John Reid's officials comes at a time of deep concern among churches that new gay rights laws due next spring will bar traditional teaching on sexual morality in schools and force them instead to include gay rights dogma in lessons.

The paper on "homophobic hate crime" is aimed at guiding police forces, local authorities, social services and schools among other public bodies. It defined homophobia - a word invented by gay lobby groups to apply to their critics - as "resentment, or fear, of gay and lesbian people" which "can be just a passive dislike of gay people". The report asked police and other groups to consider whether homophobia is happening in schools and in lessons. It said: "Schools can be a little concerned about a negative impact on their reputation, that it would be perceived as a school which has problems rather than one which deals with them positively."

Urging that school incidents be reported to a "hate crime co-ordinator", the report said: "It would be dangerous to assume that homophobic incidents to not occur in a particular school as victims and witnesses might be too worried or frightened to bring the abuse to greater attention." It called for reporting systems to "allow pupils and parents to make referrals direct if they feel the school is not taking the issue seriously."

The report added: "The seriousness of using homophobic language is not fully appreciated in schools. "Whilst it is probably made clear to pupils that the use of racist language is unacceptable, the same is not true for use of homophobic language. "However, constant use of such language and homophobic crimes and incidents will have an effect on pupils' ability to learn, or willingness to stay on in schools."

The Home Office advice also said that "it should be possible to find times working within each year group's timetable to slot in work on citizenship and homophobia". Home Office minister Tony McNulty said: "Any form of crime motivated by prejudice or hate is unacceptable. "People who commit homophobic crime need to know their prejudices and actions will be tackled." He added: "We know that hate crime can get worse if it goes unchallenged. That is why gay people need to feel they can come forward to the police."

The report also contained an endorsement from Lancashire Assistant Chief Constable Michaal Cunningham, who said: "The implementation of this guidance will assist in bringing offenders to justice and making individuals and communities feel safer." Last week Mr Cunningham's force paid 50,000 pounds in legal costs and damages to an elderly couple, Joe and Helen Roberts, who were questioned in their home by two of its officers after they complained to the local councils about its gay rights policies and asked for a right of reply for their traditional Christian beliefs. Lancashire police have brought in guidance warning officers to avoid being influenced by political groups because of the case.

Colin Hart of the Christian Institute think tank that backed the Roberts said yesterday: "There is an element of desperation about this advice. "No-one wants to see any kind of bullying in schools. But this is not about bullying of pupils who others think are homosexual. It is about punishing schools unless they try to stop pupils using "gay" as a perjorative word."

Gay lobby groups are deeply upset about the use of "homophobic" language in schools, partly because of the common use by teenagers of the word 'gay' as an insult regardless of the perceived sexual orientation of the individual they are insulting. The Home Office guidance also said that gay lobby groups could set up "third party reporting centres" to pass to police details of "homophobic" incidents which gay individuals themselves have been too scared to report to police. Police should then record the names and details of individuals passed on by gay lobby groups, it said.



Forget "jobs for the boys". Women bosses are significantly more likely than men to discriminate against female employees, research has suggested.

The study found that when presented with applications for promotion, women were more likely than men to assess the female candidate as less qualified than the male one.

They were also prone to mark down women's prospects for promotion and to assess them as more controlling than men in their management style.

The findings, based on experiments carried out among more than 700 people, suggest that the "queen bee syndrome" of female rivalry in the workplace may sometimes be as important as sexism in holding back women's careers. "Female and older participants showed more prejudice against the (idea of a) female leader than did male and younger participants," said Rocio Garcia-Retamero, a psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and lead author of the report.

Garcia-Retamaro said the findings showed that many people adopted a stereotypical view that leadership was a masculine notion. "(This) leads to a bias against a female candidate's promotion to a leadership post," she said.

Nicola Horlick, the City financier nicknamed "Superwoman" for combining a demanding job with a large family, said some women looked on other women as a threat and preferred to surround themselves with men. "It is called the `queen bee syndrome'," she said. "I have seen women in managerial positions discriminating against other women, possibly because they like to be the only female manager or woman in the workplace."

Recent cases that have illustrated this problem include that of Helen Green, 36, a Deutsche Bank employee from London. In August she was awarded nearly 800,000 pounds in damages after two years of bullying by four female colleagues that eventually led to a nervous breakdown.

The research, carried out by Garcia-Retamaro and her colleague Ester Lopez-Zafra, has just been published in the journal Sex Roles. They used 705 participants living in southern Spain to evaluate the credentials of a male and female employee of a make-believe corporation who were proposed for promotion to a managerial position as a production supervisor. After reading a description of the role and company, the participants were told to read each potential leader's CV and imagine their characteristics and likely success by evaluating them on several issues related to the job. This included looking at the likelihood that the candidate would receive an increase in salary, whether they had the right skills and if they would win the acceptance of colleagues. They also assessed how likely they might be to receive promotion and were asked to take into account stereotypical traits of men and women such as sensitivity or aggression.

The study says: "Female participants had a stronger tendency than male participants to view the female candidates as less qualified than the male candidate . . . they also thought that the female candidate would fare worse in the future in her job than the male candidate." It adds: "Female participants predicted that the male candidate would show a more laissez-faire leadership style than the female candidate would."

Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society which campaigns for sexual equality, said stereotyping was more important than female rivalry in holding back women's careers: "Stereotypes about what is an appropriate role for women are still very strong in people's minds and there is still a cultural barrier to women making it into senior positions."


Australian P.M.: Women 'moved on' from feminism

John Howard believes young Australian women have entered a post-feminist era and "moved on" from the need to measure their lives by success in a career. Discussing the rise in births triggered in part by the Coalition's baby-bonus scheme, the Prime Minister told The Sunday Telegraph he thought young women had "a greater awareness now of the disadvantage of postponing having children too long".

Mr Howard said they realised that if child-bearing was left too late, it produced "complications". "Fortunately, I think today's younger women are more in the post-feminist period, where they don't measure their independence and freedom by the number of years they remain full-time in the workforce without having children," he said. "I think they've moved on from that sort of demonstration phase. "I don't mean demonstrations in the streets and so on, but in the sense that they thought: 'I'll be letting the sisterhood down if I don't stay in the workforce until I'm a certain age.' "I think they're more confident and everything."

Mr Howard would not indicate whether his thoughts were influenced by his daughter Melanie - who is in her early 30s and was married in September, 2003 - and whether she might be expecting a child. He said it was not a matter on which he would comment.

"I think what I would claim in relation to such things is that we support choice, and that we don't measure women's achievements and women's rights by the number of full-time female participants in the workforce."

Mr Howard said that when most Australian families decided to have children, they wanted to be in a situation where "in the very early years, in the very early stages, somebody - usually the mother - is at home caring for the child full-time". Then they would go back into the workforce, usually part-time. He said the most common family grouping was what he called "the one and a half to one and a quarter", where there was a full-time breadwinner and the other partner worked part-time.

"Some of them return to full-time work, but the norm is not two people in the full-time workforce from the time a child is born. "That is not the norm, and I think you have to have policies that accommodate all of those choices. "In the last figures I saw, about 27 per cent were one and a halfs, 18 or 19 per cent were two full-timers and about 22 per cent were on single incomes. "When you add the first group and the third together, its more than double the other one."

Mr Howard said all choices had to be accommodated. He believed Coalition policies did that, without trying to tell people how to organise their lives.

Adi Levy, 26, who has a 15-month-old son, Jacob, said starting a family younger had many advantages. "I love being a young mum. I have so much more energy and patience than I would have if I was 10 years older," Ms Levy said. "Provided you're ready for it and you're financially stable, it's a good idea to start young; it's fun. "My aim is to have three children before I reach 30, but we'll see how we go."

Australia's fertility rate is at its highest level since 1995. Women aged 30 to 34 continue to have the highest fertility rate of all women (117.5 babies per 1000 women in 2005) - the highest for this age group since 1964. This reflects the continuing trend of delaying motherhood. Fertility rates of teenagers and women aged 20 to 24 continue to decline, although teenage fertility has increased in some states and territories. The median age of mothers giving birth in 2005 was 30.7 years, 3.4 years older than mothers in 1985.


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