On the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO), May 17, EI reaffirms its commitment to secure fair treatment for all, teachers and students alike.
EI will continue to promote respect for human and trade union rights, quality education for all, and the need for schools to be workplaces that are safe and free of discrimination on all grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
The International Labour Organisation recognises discrimination based on different grounds, including sexual orientation in its global reports (2011, 2007), in the factsheet on Eliminating Discrimination in the Workplace (2009), and in education materials and public statements.
Despite this, however, discrimination continues to occur in every country and in all spheres of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people: 76 countries out of 193 still have legislation criminalising sexual acts between consenting same-sex adults.
May 17 was selected as the annual day against homophobia because it was the day that the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990.
EI welcomes the fact major progress has been made in many countries in securing freedom of expression, the right to association, the right to assembly, the right to collective bargaining, and in advancing workplace rights for women, indigenous peoples, migrants, LGBT people, and people with disabilities, among others.
Education unions challenge trends
In the current political and social atmosphere, however, we are witnessing the emergence of new forms of discrimination against, and criminalisation of, LGBT people. These include spreading incitement to violence against LGBT people, the adoption of laws and policies denying people’s human rights based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
EI continues to defend and expand human rights for all teachers in unions, in education, and in society. Unfortunately, the education sector has become a targeted area. Teaching and promoting accurate rights-based information, ending stereotypes, comprehensive sex education, and respect for all, is under threat in too many countries.
Teachers and other education staff, need to prepare themselves to counter the suppression of LGBT people’s rights through measures such as criminalising same-sex practices; prohibiting LGBT people from having custody of children, including their own; denying public services to gay HIV/AIDS sufferers; and preventing teachers from providing comprehensive sex education.
Such measures are often fuelled and validated by anti-LGBT political and religious authorities, and can be directly linked to increased levels of homophobic and transphobic violence.
Decent work for LGBT women and men
“Education unions seek to achieve a just society that recognises the rights of all workers, including teachers, and citizens to enjoy decent working conditions, with safe working environments where teachers can work and students can learn in an atmosphere of respect,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.
Through its work, EI seeks to uphold the universal right to education, health, work, and other rights essential to human dignity, he added.
”We call on governments to be accountable to their obligations to respect and protect the human and trade union rights of all citizens.”