Violence and discrimination at school and other educational settings has long become a global problem. They include physical, sexual and psychological violence and bullying, and other forms of school-related violence which can occur in classes, playgrounds, toilets and changing rooms, and also on the way to and from school. But any form of discrimination and violence at school is an obstacle to the fundamental right to quality education of children and young people. No country can achieve inclusive and equitable quality education if students are discriminated against or experience violence because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity - a type of violence often referred to as homophobic and transphobic violence. It is found prevalent in all educational settings in many countries. The UNESCO publication "Out in the Open: Education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression" summarises the main findings of a global review - providing the first ever overview of the issue's most up-to-date data on its nature, scope and impact; as well as the current actions to address the violence and discrimination in educational settings worldwide. It also provides education sector stakeholders with a framework for planning and implementing effective responses as part of wider efforts to prevent and address discrimination and violence in schools.
The publication contains mainly four chapters. The introductory chapter provides the key concepts addressed in this report - violence in schools, school-related gender-based violence and homophobic and transphobic violence in educational settings. It also presents scientific data and an analysis on the nature of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in educational settings and its educational, health, well-being and employment impacts for students. While schools and other educational settings are supposed to offer safe environments, where children can learn and develop without fearing any threats and where they feel protected, existing data on the high prevalence of different forms of violence in schools are alarming. For example, data from 106 countries collected through reliable international surveys indicate that the proportion of adolescents aged 13 to 15 who say that they have recently experienced bullying ranges from 7 per cent to 74 per cent.
Chapter-2 provides an overview of the prevalence of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression worldwide. Homophobic and transphobic violence occurs widely in all societies in all regions of the world. This particular type of violence includes incidents of psychological violence, such as threats, coercion and arbitrary deprivation of liberty. It also includes physical violence, such as beatings, sexual assault, kidnappings and killings. Between January 2013 and March 2014, 594 hate-related killings of 'lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender' (LGBT) people were recorded in the 25 member- states of the Organization of American States; in the five years prior to 2013, a quarter of more than 93,000 LGBT respondents in a survey in the 28 member-states of the European Union had been attacked or threatened with violence; in 2013 alone, 2,001 incidents of violence against LGBT people were reported in the United States; and between 2008 and 2014, 1,612 killings of transgender people were recorded across 62 countries. Schools reflect these wider societal trends. As such, it is unsurprising that homophobic and transphobic violence also exists in educational settings in all regions of the world.
The third chapter discusses the response to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/ expression, describing the principles and elements of a comprehensive education sector response and the extent to which countries are implementing these elements. Addressing homophobic and transphobic violence in schools is critical to effective learning, to meet human rights commitments, including the right to education and the rights of the child, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG4 - ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Effective education sector responses to homophobic and transphobic violence require a comprehensive approach which includes effective policies, relevant curricula and training materials, training and support for staff, support for students and families, information and strategic partnerships and monitoring and evaluation.
Very few countries have education sector policies that address homophobic and transphobic violence or include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in curricula or teaching-learning materials. In most countries, staffs lack training and support to address sexual orientation and gender identity/ expression and to prevent and respond to homophobic and transphobic violence. Although many countries provide support for students who experience violence, services are often ill-equipped to deal with homophobic and transphobic violence.
Chapter-4 provides recommendations and related actions to strengthen the response to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/ expression in schools and other educational settings. This concluding chapter highly recommends that the education sector take the following actions to prevent school-related violence and discrimination: 1) Monitoring systematically the prevalence of violence in educational settings, including violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/ expression. 2) Establishing comprehensive national and school policies to prevent and address violence in educational settings, including violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 3) Ensuring that curricula and learning materials are inclusive. 4) Providing training and support to teachers and other education and school staff to prevent and address violence in educational settings. 5) Ensuring safe school environments are inclusive and provide support for students affected by violence, including violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and their families. 6) Providing access to non-judgmental and accurate information on sexual orientation and gender identity/ expression through information campaigns and partnerships with civil society and the wider school community. 7) Evaluating the efficiency, effectiveness and impact of education sector responses to violence, including violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
The writer is an independent researcher.