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Letters / Time to announce an end to discrimination

The time has come to allow women and girls in UHA and JUHA squads!

Congratulations to Peter Hamilton for his stand outside Lerwick Town Hall on the Tuesday of Up Helly Aa (UHA) in Lerwick; for the supportive meeting to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion in the King George play park on the same afternoon; and for all those who have been able to make their voices heard.

There have also been news items and letters on the need for change in UHA and the Junior UHA published by Shetland News and in the Shetland Times, and a response from the secretary of the UHA committee on BBC Shetland news on the same evening.

It was uplifting last Friday to read the supporting editorial in the Shetland Times, stating that the time has come to allow women in squads.

It was also a reminder to the council about their duties under the equalities legislation, which the convener and officials of the council appear to think do not apply to them.

As well as allowing use of public buildings to groups that openly discriminate in what is described as a community event by UHA itself, the council allows the UHA Jarl Squad and Junior UHA to visit schools and allows schools and partner nurseries to watch their procession on the day of the festival.

That is not for the community to police, it is for the council to carry out their civic duty and apply the equalities legislation. The council should be careful about the message they are sending, especially to our children.

It’s time now for the committees to meet in the next few days, listening not to the loudest voices in their own ranks, but paying attention to silent voices and the needs of the whole community.

Time to announce an end to discrimination, welcoming new members to UHA and Junior UHA without regard to race, disability, gender or sexuality.

We can then futureproof this splendid historic festival from 2023 so that it is fit for the 21st century, ending its normalisation of sexual discrimination in our community, and celebrate an inclusive Up Helly Aa with friends, family and community.

A member of the Up Helly Aa for Aa committee
(Name supplied)