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Harassment Online

Volume 600: debated on Thursday 15 October 2015

17. What support the Government provides for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who receive abuse or harassment online. (901572)

The Government are absolutely clear that abusive and threatening behaviour online, whoever the target, is unacceptable. What is illegal offline is also illegal online. My Department has funded the development of a new website—Stop Online Abuse—which launched on 17 June. It provides advice on action that individuals, particularly LGBT people, can take against offensive, damaging or threatening content online and in other media.

As part of my casework I have been contacted by a teenager who is fearful of telling friends and relatives that he is gay. Such young people may be at particular risk of bullying. What particular help is the Minister offering schools to support such cases?

No young person should ever feel that they are not able to be honest about themselves and their sexuality for fear of bullying. Tackling all forms of bullying is a priority. We have awarded £2 million to charities and community sector organisations, to help schools tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. I have also had the privilege of visiting some schools that are tackling the issue head on, such as Eastbourne academy and Caludon Castle school in Coventry, which are both Stonewall champion schools.

One quarter of LGBT students at school say that they suffer online abuse. Is the Minister working with the Department for Education to provide proper advice to schools, and is she working with the National LGBT Hate Crime Partnership’s excellent Speak Up campaign to tackle this particular form of bullying and hate crime?

I am open to working with all organisations in order to stamp out this hate crime. I am lucky enough to hold two Government jobs and am able to bring them together on this particular issue and provide £2 million of funding to pilot projects across the country to work with schools in order to stamp out unacceptable homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. The secret seems to be to take a whole-school approach, with everybody from the head to the teachers and pupils knowing exactly that that sort of behaviour is unacceptable.