More work needed to build schools inclusive towards LGBTI students and teachers


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ILGA Europe recently launched the 9th edition of its Annual Review, which assesses the human rights situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in Europe and Central Asia. We can see both positive and negative trends for LGBTI equality and human rights, but the Review also shows that homophobic and transphobic bullying, harassment and violence against students and teachers are prevalent in schools throughout Europe.

The ILGA Review 2020 tracks events with an impact on LGBTI groups and individuals across 54 countries and 4 European institutions throughout 2019. It reveals a complex picture.

On the one hand, many countries have made legislative and social progress. Examples include the expansion of family rights, the establishment or reform of legal gender recognition procedures, and an increased prominence for the bodily integrity of intersex people on the political agenda of many governments and institutions.

But the wider picture is less positive. The Review shows that the lived reality of LGBTI people in many parts of Europe and Central Asia is increasingly difficult. ILGA Europe observes a sharp rise in hate speech against LGBTI communities throughout Europe. Often this comes from public figures, for example in Bulgaria, Poland, Turkey, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain. Likewise, there has been a sharp increase in online hate speech. These developments have broad consequences for LGBTI individuals and groups, which can include being denied services, obstacles in access to healthcare, bullying in schools and workplaces and physical attacks – many of which are premeditated and brutal.

The Review gives numerous examples of homophobic and transphobic bullying, harassment and violence against LGBTI students and staff in schools across Europe and Central Asia. Furthermore, ILGA finds that school leaders and education authorities are often reluctant to take measures like providing training on LGBTI issues or inclusive sex education, and that the public often support this stance. ILGA demands strong action from governments, such as laws that guarantee protection, giving public authorities the means to put these laws into practice, and debating these issues with a tone and discourse which promotes social acceptance and inclusion.

ETUCE is committed to defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people. In particular, ETUCE condemns anti-LGBTI prejudices, bullying and discrimination in the education sector and supports Member Organisations in their activities in this field. As a family of education trade unions, ETUCE supports teachers and other education personnel, for example in developing anti-discrimination and anti-bullying strategies to protect LGBTI students and their families. With this in mind, ETUCE adopted the Joint Declaration to combat homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, in workplaces and in society with ETUC and ILGA Europe, advocating for safe, healthy and inclusive learning and working environments for all.

ETUCE’s innovative Education Trade Unions and Inclusive Schools: Embracing Diversity in Education also builds on our work for LGBTI rights and equality. The project brings together education trade unions to map the experiences of teachers, academics, and other education personnel and to find strategies for creating more inclusive schools. LGBTI equality and inclusion is one of the topics we will address. Through this two-year project, co-funded by the European Commission, ETUCE will promote concrete measures to implement the upcoming ETUCE Action Plan on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at national and local level, and enrich our Database of Good Practices, creating an extensive catalogue of workable approaches for building inclusive learning environments across Europe.