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The inclusion of LGBT people in education settings of paramount importance to “leaving no one behind”

02 October 2019


Statement by the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry

Bullying, harassment and exclusion of LGBT people in educational institutions[1] is worldwide problem[2] faced by significant proportion of LGBT students.[3] It is often driven by stigma and prejudice; rooted in deep cultural beliefs about gender roles, masculinity and femininity.[4] 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.[5] This occurs in classes, playgrounds, toilets and changing rooms, on the way to and from school, as well as online.[6]

Implicit violence also takes place through discriminatory education policies, regulations, curricula, teaching materials and teaching practices.[7] A lack of comprehensive sex education puts the health of students at risk. Trans students face additional obstacles with gendered uniforms, official documents/records that don't reflect their gender identity, and single sex facilities such as toilets and changing rooms in educational institutions. [8]

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. 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.[9]

Additionally, these unwelcome environments affect LGBT people's overall education and employment prospects.[10] 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.[11]

Under the Sustainable Development Goals, States commit to "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all" (Goal 4). In line with international human rights law, LGBT students have the right to an education free from violence and discrimination, that  promotes respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.[12]

UN human rights mechanisms have raised concern about violence[13] and discrimination[14] based on sexual orientation and gender identity in education and have called on states to take measures prohibit, prevent and punish the harassment, bullying, and expulsion from schools of LGBTI children, [15] including by raising public awareness[16] and implementing safety and support measures."[17] States should also conduct studies[18]/collect statistical data on education, disaggregated by sexual orientation and gender identity, to inform policy development.[19] Finally, States should develop sex education programmes that provide students with comprehensive, accurate and age-appropriate information regarding sexuality and diverse gender identities.[20]

It is encouraging to see policy and practice developing in all regions of the world to ensure the rights of LGBT and gender non-conforming children and young people to education.

[1] Joint UN statement on Ending violence and discrimination against LGBTI people, 2015. Joint statement of UN and regional human rights experts, Discriminated and made vulnerable: Young LGBT and intersex people need recognition and protection of their rights, 2015; UNESCO. 2012. Education Sector Responses to Homophobic Bullying. CRC General comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence, CRC/C/GC/20, para.33; CRC General comment No. 21 (2017) on children in street situations, CRC/C/GC/21, para.8

[2] UNESCO. 2016. Out in the Open: Education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

[3] UNESCO. 2016; OAS IACHR, Violence Against LGBTI Persons in the Americas (OAS/Ser.L/V/II.rev.1 Doc. 36) 12 November 2015.

[4] UNESCO. 2016; Pinheiro, PS. 2006.

[5] UNESCO. 2012; Pinheiro, PS. 2006; IACHR, 2015; CRC General comment No. 20, para.33

[6] UNESCO. 2016.

[7] UNESCO. 2016. Out in the Open.

[8] UNESCO. 2016. Out in the Open.

[9] UNESCO. 2012; UNESCO. 2016; IACHR, 2015; CRC General comment No. 20, para.33; CRC General comment No. 21 (2017) CRC/C/GC/21, para.8

[10] ILO. 2016. Results of the ILO's PRIDE Project, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation: Promoting Rights, Diversity and Equality in the World of Work.

[11] UNESCO. 2012; UNESCO. 2016; IACHR, 2015.

[12] UDHR Art 26. CRC, Art 2(1),28, 37. CESCR Art 13, CEDAW, Art 10. World Declaration on Education For All (1990), Art III.  VDPA para.33, 78-82.

[13] A/61/299 (IE for UN study on violence against children), para.52; CRC/C/GBR/CO/5 (2016), para.48(a); CRC/C/IRN/CO/3-4 (2016), para.77(e); CRC/C/VEN/CO/3-5 (2014), para.27

[14] CCPR/C/MEX/CO/5, para.21; CRC/C/SRB/CO/2-3 (2017), para.22(b); CEDAW/C/ALB/CO/4  (2016), para.38; CEDAW/C/PHL/CO/7-8 (2016), para.45(a); CEDAW/C/JPN/CO/7-8 (2016), para.46; E/C.12/MNG/CO/4 (2015), para.13; CRC/C/COL/CO/4-5 (2015); E/C.12/GTM/CO/3 (2014), para.9; E/C.12/UKR/CO/6 (2014), para.10; E/C.12/IRN/CO/2 (2013), para.7; E/C.12/PER/CO/2-4 (2012), para.5; CEDAW/C/CRI/CO/5-6 (2011), para.40; CEDAW/C/UGA/CO/7 (2010), para.43

[15] CRC/C/IRN/CO/3-4 (2016), para.78(d)

[16] CCPR/C/MEX/CO/5, para.21; CEDAW/C/SGP/CO/5, para.41; CRC/C/SRB/CO/2-3 (2017), para.22(b); CRC/C/SVK/CO/3-5 (2016), para.16(b, c); CCPR/C/KOR/CO/4 (2015), para.15; E/C.12/MNG/CO/4 (2015), para.13(a); E/C.12/PER/CO/2-4 (2012), para.5; CEDAW/C/CRI/CO/5-6 (2011), para.41; CEDAW/C/UGA/CO/7 (2010), para.44.

[17] CRC General comment No.20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence, CRC/C/GC/20, para.33-34.

[18] CRC/C/LVA/CO/3-5 (2016), para.27(c)

[19] CEDAW/C/ARG/CO/7 (2016), para.49

[20] CCPR/C/KOR/CO/4 (2015), para.15. A/65/162 (SR Education, report on sex education), para.23; A/66/254 (SR Health 2011), para.59