Sydney’s Oxford Street declared ‘homophobia-free zone’

The City of Sydney has taken the unusual step of declaring Oxford Street a homophobia-free zone in a bid to tackle anti-gay violence.

The homophobia-free zone motion was put forward by Cr Phillip Black at a recent forum for the gay community, receiving support from other community groups along with the council’s endorsement.

The Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore said the declaration of the zone, coupled with the Oxford Street Safety Strategy which came into effect last year, would help Sydney take a more proactive approach towards protecting the minority group.

“Homophobic abuse is often a precursor to violence…While all areas of NSW are technically ‘homophobia-free zones’, this strategy recognises the importance and strength of the GLBT community in our City,” Cr Moore said. 

She said the council will now develop implementation options, working collaboratively with police, businesses and gay rights organisations and the community.

“If people get away with homophobic abuse, there is a strong risk that they move on to physical abuse and violence. We must stop it before it gets to that stage,” she said.

The council’s new strategy, however, has been met with criticism with some saying it might in fact provoke violence.

“Oxford Street is already a homophobia-free zone – in fact our whole country is, because homosexual discrimination is illegal,” City of Sydney councillor, Shayne Mallard told the Wentworth Courier.

“The problem surrounds people who are actively seeking to commit violence against gay people, and a sign or a sticker which reads ‘homophobia-free zone’ won’t stop them – in fact it may actually provoke them.”  

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