Posted by MK on 9/18/12 –
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has released a new document summarizing nations’ obligations under international law with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity. The document, Born Free and Equal: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in International Human Rights Law, includes a section on education and youth; I’ve pasted that section below. (Advisory: the new document contains at least one graphic image of violence.)
Though various bodies of the United Nations have been addressing human-rights violations based sexual orientation and gender identity for two decades, the pace of progress has picked up recently. In 2011, the U.N.’s Human Rights Council approved its first resolution (Resolution 17/19) on human rights with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity. As the newly issued document from the Office of the High Commissioner explains, “the  resolution was approved by a narrow margin but, significantly, received support from Council members from all regions. Its adoption paved the way for the first official United Nations report on the same subject, prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”
The newly released document includes the following section on education and youth. I’ve omitted the footnotes, but you can access the full, original document at the link above.
Discrimination in schools and other educational settings can severely impair the ability of young people perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex to enjoy their right to education. In some cases, education authorities and schools actively discriminate against young people because of their sexual orientation or gender expression, sometimes leading to their being refused admission or being expelled. In addition, LGBT and intersex youth frequently experience violence and harassment, including bullying, in school from classmates and teachers. Confronting this kind of prejudice and intimidation requires concerted efforts from school and education authorities and integration of principles of non-discrimination and diversity in school curricula and discourse. The media also have a role to play by eliminating negative stereotyping of LGBT people, including in television programmes popular among young people.
The Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child have expressed concern about homophobic discrimination in schools, and called for measures to counter homophobic and transphobic attitudes. According to UNESCO, “it is often in the primary school playground that boys deemed by others to be too effeminate or young girls seen as tomboys endure teasing and sometimes the first blows linked to their appearance and behaviour, perceived as failing to fit in with the hetero-normative gender identity.”
Isolation and stigma generate depression and other health problems and contribute to truancy, absenteeism, children being forced out of school and, in extreme cases, attempted or actual suicide. A survey in the United Kingdom found that almost 65 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth had been bullied in schools because of their sexual orientation and more than a quarter had been physically abused. These findings are mirrored by results of studies carried out in other countries.
A related concern is sex education. The right to education includes the right to receive comprehensive, accurate and age-appropriate information regarding human sexuality in order to ensure young people have access to information needed to lead healthy lives, make informed decisions and protect themselves and others from sexually transmitted infections. The Special Rapporteur on the right to education noted that “in order to be comprehensive, sexual education must pay special attention to diversity, since everyone has the right to deal with his or her own sexuality.”
I’ll have all of these documents posted in the LGBT Youth Allies online resource library by the end of the day.