A report by UNESCO and SUMMA states that discrimination and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) students remains widespread in schools.
The Global Education Monitoring Report 2020 Latin America and the Caribbean- Inclusion and Education: All means All, produced by the GEM Report together with SUMMA and the Regional Bureau of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago) shows that sexism and homophobia are widespread in schools in Latin America.
A study conducted in seven countries in the region (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay) found that four out of five LGTBI students in Chile do not feel safe at school. In Colombia, 15% of students had been victims of school violence because of their sexual orientation. In Peru, around 17% of LGTBI students reported physical aggression in the previous year. In Mexico, 75% of LGTBI students experienced verbal harassment and insults at school and 66% of transgender students reported having been bullied at school.
For Javier Gonzalez, director of SUMMA, “despite progress in the region with the introduction of gender identity and anti-discrimination laws in several countries, the school climate remains undeniably hostile for LGTBI students, who are still prone to verbal harassment and psychological and physical violence from their peers and mainly from their teachers. This not only affects their dignity, but also their socio-emotional development and learning, and can cause those affected to drop out of school altogether”.
The report also shows that young people in the region who experienced higher levels of victimization because of their sexual orientation were at least twice as likely to be out of school and had high levels of depression. In the seven countries analyzed, LGBTI students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation (between 47% and 81% of respondents) and gender expression (between 32% and 63%).
“Schools have to be inclusive if we want society to be inclusive,” says Manos Antoninis, director of UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report. “If we teach boys or girls that a certain type of person is not acceptable, that’s going to affect the way they behave with others.”
At present, sexual diversity remains an absent topic in the curricula of several Latin American countries.
Some laws and educational policies also send signals that discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity are not tolerated. For example, in Paraguay, a 2017 resolution of the Ministry of Education and Science prohibited the dissemination and use of educational materials referring to “gender theory and/or ideology.” In Brazil, in 2018, the government committed to remove LGBTI content from textbooks.
“We must prepare teachers to create more inclusive school climates and for students to feel safe to report bullying,” says Claudia Uribe, director of OREALC/UNESCO Santiago.
The majority of LGBTI students had a negative experience due to teachers’ attitudes towards sexual orientation and gender expression. Only two-thirds of students stated that a teacher intervened when homophobic or transphobic language was used at school.
The lack of diversity among teachers and educational staff does not help. Even when homosexuality is not criminalized, there have been cases where LGTBI faculty and support staff are victims of discrimination in countries such as Brazil and Paraguay.
The International LGBTQI Students and Youth Organization (IGLYO) and UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report have published the policy paper “The Global Education Agenda: A New Way Forward.: Don’t look away: no place for exclusion of LGBTI students, which presents the findings of a series of research and surveys conducted in Europe on the situation of LGTBI students. This new document also highlights the situation of LGTBI people in education worldwide and urges policy makers to ensure a safe learning environment for all students, especially for those most at risk of violence such as LGTBI people.