The United Nations’ independent expert committee on women’s rights should spell out state obligations to protect lesbians, bisexual and intersex women and girls, and trans people (LBTI people) in education, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) said Monday.
The committee—known as the Committee to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women or the CEDAW Committee—oversees human rights norms in the area of women’s right to non-discrimination. Committee members are meeting today as part of a process to develop guidance for governments on how to guarantee equal access to education.
“There cannot be equal access to education unless states tackle discrimination against those subgroups of women and girls who face particular types of exclusion,” said Akinyi Ocholla, representing Minority Women in Action (ILGA’s Women’s Secretariat).
“This means looking closely at how women and girls of different gender expressions, different ethnicities, different ages, different socio-economic groups experience access to education” added Alessia Valenza, Membership and Communications Officer at ILGA, who made the statement in Geneva.
Research from several countries demonstrates that LBTI youth have significantly higher school dropout rates than other children, often due to bullying or because they otherwise feel unsafe. This, in turn, results in higher unemployment and poverty levels later in life. Many LBTI youth also face violence and exclusion within their families, pushing some to live on the street or in precarious situations.
Much discrimination and exclusion against LBTI people can be linked to rigid social norms about what it means to be male or female. The CEDAW Committee has been very clear that governments must combat these norms as part of their human rights obligations.
“All too often, girls who don’t conform to a very narrow definition of what it means to be a girl cannot feel safe at home or at school,” said Marianne Møllmann, director of programs at IGLHRC. “And that’s a human rights problem that states have a manifest obligation to overcome.”
Both ILGA and IGLHRC testified before the CEDAW Committee Monday. The organizations recommended several essential steps that governments should take to create a safer educational environment for LBTI people, including:
- The repeal of laws that discriminate against persons because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status.
- The explicit inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status as prohibited grounds for discrimination.
- The elimination of gender-specific dress codes at schools.
- The development of inclusive and comprehensive plans to tackle bullying against LBTI youth as a form of hate speech.
For more information, please see: CEDAW Committee General Day of discussion about access to education and IGLHRC’s written testimony to the Committee.
Source: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.