Education Ministers to Address Homophobic and Transphobic Violence in Education

For the first time in history, Ministers from across the world are expected to issue a Call for Action which affirms their commitment to ensuring the right to quality education for each and every student, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

They will issue the Call at the #OutInTheOpen event at UNESCO, Paris, from 17-18 May 2016, representing the largest ever gathering of high-level representatives to tackle homophobic and transphobic violence in education.

Tackling violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression is critical to effective learning, to meet human rights commitments and to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 - to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning for all.

UNESCO Senior Project Officer Christophe Cornu, says schools are supposed to be safe places where young people can learn “yet statistics reveal that students who are or perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI), or do not conform to prevailing sexual or gender norms, suffer extreme levels of violence, including bullying, at school.”

Around 250 participants are expected to attend the event, including representatives from government, civil society, UN and other multi-lateral agencies, and young people who have been personally impacted by violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in educational settings. 

Cornu said the International Ministerial Meeting is intended to put violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression firmly on the international agenda.

Launch of the Global Report “Out in the Open”

Opening the event, UNESCO Deputy Director-General, Mr Getachew Engida (representing UNESCO Director General, Ms Irina Bokova) will launch the first UN Global Report on education-sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

The Report provides an overview of the most current data on the nature, scope and impact of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and provides education sector stakeholders with a framework for planning and implementing effective responses to such violence.

The Minister of Education, Culture and Science from The Netherlands, Mr Jet Bussemaker, will make the opening remarks, joined on stage by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Kate Gilmore, and Board Member of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO), Ms Elin Lilijenbladh.

Afternoon thematic roundtables will focus on the elements of comprehensive education sector responses, including prevention, effective interventions, culturally sensitive approaches, and the specific needs of transgender students.

During the afternoon’s Ministerial panel, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education, Mr Qian Tang, will invite Ministers from four different regions to present examples of promising practices and challenges from their countries. Other panels will include representatives from key civil society organisations such as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) who will involve the launch of two short films around homophobic and transphobic violence in education.

World Leaders Affirm Their Commitment

The second day will focus on emerging data and trends in homophobic and transphobic violence in educational settings, in such countries and regions as Southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, China, Japan and Cambodia.

Sweden’s Minister of Education, Mr Gustav Fridolin, will lead the afternoon session, firstly presenting the Call for Action by attending Ministers and inviting his Ministerial colleagues to take part in an affirmation ceremony.

The Minister of Education from Costa Rica, Ms Sonia Mora Escalante, will then chart the way forward for education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, alongside President of the Committee of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), Ms Tamara Adrian.

The closing remarks will be delivered by Special Representative of the UN-Secretary General on Violence against Children, Ms Marta Santos Pais.