THE BLOG

'Protection Approaches' - A New NGO Speaking Up for the Most Vulnerable

30/04/2015 12:36 BST | Updated 30/06/2015 10:59 BST

This week a review of the election manifestos was released providing a survey of how the parties have committed to tackle prejudice, discrimination and violence committed against people because of an aspect of their identity - not just here in the UK but around the world.

This is an issue close to my heart. Several years ago I spent time in Rwanda working with families of genocide victims to help improve their access to healthcare and education. This experience taught me two things.

First, I learnt about where the politics of division can ultimately lead us. In Rwanda, extremists in the government and media, through a campaign of fear, scapegoating and dehumanisation were able to marginalise a group to the extent that neighbour turned on neighbour. There was murder on an unimaginable scale.

That couldn't happen here. Yet, in one of our most widely read newspapers, Katie Hopkins described the refugees fleeing unimaginable horror in Syria as "cockroaches". Hutu extremists who instigated the genocide in Rwanda used the same word to describe Tutsis.

In the UK a number of groups face the threat of hate crime, because of an aspect of their identity: Race, religion, sexuality or gender. During this election campaign, I've met many thousands of Battersea residents, and too many have told me they feel increasingly marginalised. Many point to dehumanising and divisive rhetoric on inequality, pay and benefits.

Social cohesion is our strongest defence against discrimination, extremism, and identity-based violence. When a society begins to fracture, instability follows. The review, undertaken by start-up NGO Protection Approaches, makes plain that wherever you are in the world, discrimination, left unchecked, leads to identity-based violence. We have seen this in Greece, where attitudes towards immigration have been allowed to fester and migrants were beaten up on the streets in Athens. In Uganda, legislation against homosexuality has led to gay men being violently targeted not just by the state, but society.

The second thing Rwanda taught me was the responsibility we all have towards each other. In 1994, the international community - including the government here in the UK - stood by as upwards of 800,000 people were murdered in just one hundred days. And it wasn't just Rwanda. The international community refused to intervene in Bosnia, where over 200,000 were killed during three years of brutal ethnic cleansing.

We all have a responsibility to protect those more vulnerable than ourselves. As Labour's Candidate for Battersea, I'm proud that my party continues to champion the rights of the vulnerable whether at home or around the world. Labour has promised to create a Special Envoy for LGBT rights abroad, and to appoint a Global Envoy for Religious Freedom. While the Conservatives and UKIP continue to distort and demonize the debate over human rights, I am proud that the party I represent hails the Human Rights Act for the powerful means of redress it gives some of our most vulnerable citizens.

This election will make a big difference to people's lives. For many I've met, a Labour victory next week is not just a "nice to have", but an absolute necessity.

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A children's nursery on Nkombo Island, built by Rwanda Aid, with inspirational teacher, Gabriel Ntibazirikana.

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