Apprentice star Sanjay Sood-Smith has opened up to MM about his own personal experience of growing up ‘gay and half Indian’ in Manchester as the city marks Hate Crime Awareness Week.
The former Manchester University student, who bid farewell to the boardroom in the quarter final, has been openly gay for many years and now recognises that the signs were there as young as nine years old.
The 27-year-old banker, who previously worked as a waiter at Eden on Canal Street, explained that his openness has led to his own personal encounters of hate crime during a talk at Affleck’s Palace.
“In my first year at Manchester University, I was headbutted in the face and had homophobic abuse shouted at me,” he told MM.
“I was also bullied when I was younger at school – being half Indian and gay has its challenges.
“Generally, Manchester is a cosmopolitan, really diverse place. Unfortunately hate crime still goes on, but what the police are trying to do here is pretty unique.”
As part of Hate Crime Awareness Week (HCAW) 2015, there is a full calendar of community events, including short films, workshops and discussions happening throughout the week.
But Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council are not just keen to raise awareness about crimes which target people for a whole host of reasons, including sexuality and race.
They want to introduce measures and put safeguards in place which support victims of hate crime directly.
Third party reporting centres have been set up as an alternative place for the public to report abuse, and Sanjay believes that they will serve an important purpose.
“I think the third party reporting centres are fantastic because people who might not feel comfortable or confident phoning the police, or going to see the police, can go and make reports of these incidents in places that they feel are safe to them, and with people that they know will empathise with them,” he said.
“In order to eradicate something like hate crime, we need to raise the profile and do something about it. It won’t just disappear. Action needs to be taken and that is what Greater Manchester Police are doing at the minute.”
“There is that perception sometimes that the police don’t care or won’t help you, but people who are victims of hate crime, from different races or sexual orientations, they are often used to having abuse given to them, so they don’t always think to report it.
“It can be a misconception that nothing will be done and people won’t care, but Greater Manchester Police are doing as much as they can to really demonstrate to people that they do care.
There are currently 29 reporting centres across the city. Locations include Affleck’s Palace and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation.
There were 5,000 hate crimes reported in Greater Manchester last year – an increase of 20% on the year before – and Sanjay believed that campaigns like HCAW were beneficial in encouraging people to report it.
“By campaigns like this, more and more people are reporting [hate crime],” he said.
“The fact that they are getting more and more people to speak up means that they are able to deal with it and bring more people that commit these crimes to justice.”
Hate crime soared by 50% across Manchester last year – with a notable incident occuring in November, when two homosexual men were attacked after singing songs from the musical Wicked on a Manchester tram.
Sanjay said that he recognises progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go to eliminate prejudice.
“It would be great if one day, we lived in a world where there is no need for a hate crime awareness week, because people don’t persecute others for the way they are,” he said.
“We are hundreds of years off that, but we are progressing all the time.
“I don’t think we could ever be in a world where there is nothing, but as long as we are seeing change and we are seeing the numbers fall, that is progress.”
Image courtesy of BBC via YouTube, with thanks.