Today marks bisexual awareness day. Bisexuality means many things to many people, Dr Julia Shaw defines bisexuality as not only a person attracted to cisgender males and females, but the sexual orientation of anyone who identifies as bisexual, pansexual, pluri-sexual, polysexual, sexually fluid, bi-curious, or questioning.
The awareness day represents a positive move to promote those who identify within these groups. In Data Protection law terms, there are safeguards in place to provide added protection to the personal data of sexuality. GDPR Article 9 defines a number of special characteristics which require Data Controllers to provide an additional lawful basis when processing this personal data.
The reason special characteristic data requires additional safeguards can be traced to the human rights abuses of the 1930s and 40s. As a result of the atrocities of the Second World War the United Nations agreed on a set of human rights principles that were reinforced by the right of protection of our personal data in 1981 by the European Council. This is the seminal catalyst for Data Protection legislation around the World, including our own 1984 Data Protection Act.
The rights to be yourself are enshrined in law, the right not to be discriminated against is a fundamental human right. In the past, and unfortunately still in our present, identifying as queer in any context or belonging to any of the groups defined within special characteristics can result in physical, financial and workplace abuse. We have a harrowing history of people who were (and are) not only persecuted, but prosecuted, imprisoned and murdered because of this. The strength of data protection laws protects those who identify within these special characteristic groups.
As we today raise awareness of us who celebrate their sexuality, we should reflect on the motives of those who wish to weaken our human rights, in particular state oversight of our personal data, remove judicial redress and weaken the right to be yourself.
Shaw J The hidden culture, history and science of bisexuality Canongate Books Ltd, London 2022 Pg.22
- Data Protection Act 1984 c35