More than half of the LGBTQI students experienced bullying in school at least once because of their sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and variations of sex characteristics, according to UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report and the International LGBTQI Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO).
The survey “Don’t Look Away: No place for exclusion of LGBTI students” noted that Fifty four percent of the LGBTQI students in Europe had the worst experience. It said that 83 per cent of students had at least heard negative comments towards LGBTQI students and 67% had been the target of negative comments at least once. The UNESCO and IGLYO released the survey on International Day Against Homophobia Biphobia and Transphobia ( May 17).
LACK OF SUPPORT
The survey pointed out that several teachers and school authorities lacked the confidence and knowledge to support LGBTI students. It pointed out that majority of students (about 58 per cent) never reported incidents of bullying to any school staff. However, fewer than one in ten transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming respondents said that their gender identities were always respected in school-related documentation. Meanwhile, eight in ten reported problems accessing gendered spaces in line with their identities.
UNSAFE AND UNWELCOME
Interim Executive Director of IGLYO Jonathan Beger stressed that several LGBTI students still feel unsafe and unwelcome in school despite changes in the national discourse in many countries. He said that LGBTI young people, especially trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming and intersex learners, were still experiencing unacceptably high levels of discrimination and harassment. They need robust and explicit protections in laws, policies and practices, especially within education, he added.
In the USA, 12.5 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual students reported of not going to school at least once in the previous 30 days as they unsafe at or on their way to and from school. LGBTI students in New Zealand were three times as likely to be bullied as their peers. In Japan, 68 per cent LGBT persons aged 10 to 35 experienced violence in school. In seven Latin American countries, LGBTI students could identify at least one supportive teacher or school staff member, but most students had a negative experience of teacher attitudes to sexual orientation and gender expression.
The survey report in general points out that curricula and learning materials either ignore entirely or misrepresent LGBTI identities. Less than one in five respondents said they were taught positive representations of LGBTI people in school. A recent review found that nearly half of the 47 Council of Europe member states did not address sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or variations of sex characteristics in the curriculum. It said that only seven countries made it optional and 19 made it compulsory.
Providing a safe learning environment is a crucial step in achieving inclusion for LGBTI learners, which was recognized in the commitment made by 56 countries in 2016 under the UNESCO-convened Call for Action by Ministers for inclusive and equitable education for all learners in an environment free from discrimination and violence.
In line with that Call for Action, the UNESCO and IGLYO called for working across sectors to take coherent measures to protect the rights of LGBTI people. They also asked to implement anti-discrimination legislation mentioning sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and variations of sex characteristics. The organisations said that policies on the equality of rights of LGBTI people needs to be part of a comprehensive package to indicate the direction society is taking towards diversity and inclusion. They also called for rolling out teaching of human rights education and comprehensive sexuality education. They wanted the governments to invest in teacher capacity to deliver inclusive curricula and prevent or address bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or variations of sex characteristics.