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States must act to stop bullying of LGBT students, say UN experts

GENEVA (4 October 2019) – UN human rights experts have expressed their grave concerns about bullying, harassment and exclusion of LGBT people at schools, universities and other educational institutions, and called on States to prohibit and prevent such actions and to punish offenders.

"It is deeply disturbing that young people are being subjected to vicious online attacks and hate crimes - often by peers from their own schools – due to their sexual orientation or gender identity," said the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Koumbou Boly Barry.

"LGBT students face teasing, name calling and public ridicule, rumours, intimidation, pushing and hitting, stealing or damaging belongings, obscene notes and graffiti, social isolation, cyber bullying, physical and sexual assault, and even death threats," they said in a statement. "This occurs in classes, playgrounds, toilets and changing rooms, on the way to and from school, as well as online.

"Implicit violence also takes place through discriminatory education policies, regulations, curricula, teaching materials and teaching practices," they added.

Madrigal-Borloz will present a report*, which will in part address the issue of bullying and harassment of LGBT students, to the UN General Assembly on 24 October 2019.

Bullying and discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression adversely affects LGBT and gender non-conforming students' physical and psychological health, the UN experts said. Documented effects include depression, anxiety, fear, stress, loss of confidence, low self-esteem, withdrawal, social isolation, loneliness, guilt, sleep disturbance, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, self-harm, and even suicide, they said.

"Additionally, these unwelcome environments affect LGBT people's overall education and employment prospects," Madrigal-Borloz and Koumbou Boly Barry said. "They are more likely to feel unsafe at school, avoid school activities, miss classes, skip school or drop out, and achieve lower academic results than their peers, setting them to an economic disadvantage in life."

UN human rights mechanisms have raised concerns about violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in education and have called on States to take measures to prohibit, prevent and punish the harassment, bullying, and expulsion from schools of LGBTI children, including by raising public awareness and implementing safety and support measures.

ENDS

Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz assumed the role of  UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for a three years period starting on 1 January 2018.

*This statement gives a glimpse of his forthcoming report addressed to the General Assembly, in which he examines in detail  how discriminatory laws and sociocultural norms continue to marginalize and exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender-diverse persons, including young persons, from education, health care, housing, employment and occupation, and other sectors. In addition, the Independent Expert looks at the inclusion and access to these rights through the lens of intersectionality and analyses compounded discrimination, which leads to exclusion and marginalization that impacts the young in unique ways that must be made visible. He then discusses the ways in which an inclusive society and effective State measures enable people to enjoy protection from violence and discrimination and highlights the unique role of leaders in different fields, all of which will allow the cycle of exclusion to be broken and have a positive impact on the misconceptions, fears and prejudices that fuel violence and discrimination.

Ms Koumbou Boly Barry (Burkina Faso) took office as Special Rapporteur on the right to education on 1 August 2016 following her appointment at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council. She holds a PhD in Economic History from Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal. She is the former Minister of Education and Literacy of Burkina Faso and has consulted widely for various governments and international institutions on the right to education. Ms Boly Barry has been an advocate on gender issues in education. She also has ample knowledge and experience in training and research, as a visiting professor at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, University of Louvain La Neuve Belgium, and a lecturer at Ouagadougou University, Burkina Faso, Vitoria University, Brazil and Fribourg University, Switzerland.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact Alice Ochsenbein (+41 22 917 32 98 / aochsenbein@ohchr.org) or Catherine de Preux De Baets (+41 22 917 93 27 /cdepreuxdebaets@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 93 83 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

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