Promoting safe and inclusive education

On 11 October MEPs Jill Evans and Julie Ward hosted an event on inclusive education at the European Parliament

News / 09.11.18

In most countries in Europe, half or more LGBTQI students feel unsafe at school due to their sexuality or gender identity. Even in Iceland, which has the lowest figure, 33% of LGBTQI students feel unsafe. EFA MEP Jill Evans believes “this is completely unacceptable”.

On 11 October, MEPs Jill Evans and Julie Ward co-hosted an event on what the EU can do to ensure schools are safe and inclusive for all. Speakers at the event revealed that not only do students not feel safe, they actually are not safe because of high levels of violence. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights survey shows that at least 68% of LGBTQI learners reported experiences of homophobic or transphobic bullying.

“We often believe that our societies are becoming more accepting of LGBTI people – but it is very worrying that many young people still hold homophobic and transphobic views,” noted Jill Evans. “Our aim is to achieve full equality – that means all young people can be open and honest about who they are and that they are supported by teachers during the crucial years of their development,” she added.

At the event Katrin Hugendubel from ILGA-Europe explained that negative teaching about homosexuality and homophobic remarks from teachers are still common in many countries, with Ukraine and Romania being the worst.

Rubén Ávila from IGLYO presented the LGBTQI Inclusive Education Index & Report, which shows that not enough has been done protect and support LGBTQI learners in school. More than 8 in 10 of all respondents had witnessed negative comments or conduct during their time at school because someone was perceived to be LGBTQI. Moreover, 2 out of 3 respondents hid or disguised being LGBTQI at school.

Discrimination is usually higher in countries where human rights of LGBTQI people are not respected, but this problem is widespread around Europe, e.g. in Norway between 15% and 48% of LGBTQI learners were bullied, compared to 7% of their heterosexual/cis peers.

Our aim is to achieve full equality so all young people can be open and honest about who they are – EFA MEP Jill Evans

Speakers at the event said that what is needed are positive messages about homosexuality and gender identities, as well as innovative campaigns and resources that raise awareness of the issues faced by LGBTQI youth in education. We also need to ensure safe and inclusive education environments for all young people by working with our governments, experts, teachers, parents, and learners.

“We are currently looking at the future of Erasmus+, for example, so this is the right time to have an influence on future programmes, and to make sure future projects promote inclusive education,” explained Jill Evans.

Jill Evans, who is a member of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, concluded: “I can’t emphasize enough how important organisations such as ILGA-Europe and IGLYO are in informing our work in the European Parliament – not just legislative but also non-legislative work, such as raising awareness.”

Jill Evans and Julie Ward previously also co-hosted an event entitled “Collusion of fundamentalism and neoliberalism and its impact on women and minority rights” at the European Parliament, co-organised by the European Network of Migrant Women and Coppieters Foundation.

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Header photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

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