For years, Bård Stensli has fought a tireless fight for acceptance of homosexuality in the police force. Now he has received YS’s gender equality award.
‘I’m happy to get the prize. It means a lot to me, and is a recognition that the work I do is important’, said Stensli to NTB news.
The jury wrote that Stensli has worked extensively, and systematically, for a long time with a topic that can be challenging.
‘He has been changing the police’, wrote the jury, pointing out that the 52 year old has been working against hate crime in all arenas, has been the driving force for police participation in the gay parade in Oslo, has introduced ‘hate crime’ as a topic at the Police College, and has brought the case to the media.
‘In the police, we are totally dependent on having the diversity to reach everyone. We need to reach the minorities we have in Norway,’ said the police office of PST, the Police Security Service.
Colleagues turned their backs
He himself came out as gay in 1992.
‘There was nothing I wanted there and then. Someone asked at a Christmas dinner if I was gay or not. I wouldn’t lie and said yes. It was an involuntary process to come out, but it was also a relief’, said Stensli.
At that time there was no openness in the police about homosexuality.
‘Of course, I knew of others, but nobody was open about it,’ said Stensli.
He agreed to take the initiative that the police could appear in uniform in Oslo Pride in 2005.
‘Then we sought permission with the police director to go in uniform, and we got that. 12 police officers went on the parade in full uniform. It caused reactions. Stensli said some police officers wouldn’t talk to him, and turned their backs,while others went to the parade in police uniform.
‘It was terribly sad, and I thought, here is a lack of knowledge. It is often a lack of knowledge that makes people react incorrectly’, said Stensli.
This year, 130 police went on the parade, and no colleagues turned their backs.
‘Now our colleagues are coming and hugging us. It’s good to see that there has been a change’.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today