A new campaign against the bullying of LGBTI young people kicked off in Thailand yesterday with students at Bangkok’s Thammassat University drawing gay pride rainbows on the footpath to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).
The event launch for the School Rainbow campaign saw a colorful performance by a Rainbow All Boy Cheerleaders squad as students colored in the rainbow and wrote messages of support in chalk.
Students at the NIST International School participated in a similar event earlier today and students at Mathayom Prachanivet School and Wat Nuannoradit School will be holding similar events from 6am tomorrow.
On IDAHO day itself, 17 May, students will also converge upon the Bangkok Art & Cultural Center (BACC) for a youth sharing and empowerment workshop on bullying organized by LGBTI rights group Anjaree Foundation and Thammassat University.
The event is being supported by UNESCO, UNAIDS and partners, including the Embassies of the United States and the Netherlands in Bangkok and Wednesday’s event was opened by US Ambassador Kristie Anne Kenney.
‘For too many young people from LGBTI communities, returning to school means re-entering a world where there is the very real threat of being bullied, including verbal, physical and even sexual abuse,’ Kenney said at the event.
A study conducted by Plan International, UNESCO, and Mahidol University released at Wednesday's event found that nearly one-third of Thai students who identify as LGBTI reported having experienced physical abuse.
A similar number were targets of verbal abuse and one-in-four said they faced sexual harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
7% of those who reported being bullied said they had attempted suicide in the last year and 23% said they had suffered depression over it.
‘This study is the first of its kind in Thailand,’ said Gwang-Jo Kim, the Director of UNESCO Bangkok.
‘Conducted in five provinces across four regions of Thailand with over 2,500 students, teachers and school administrators, it gives an unprecedented look into the situation in schools here.’
For Thai students who are kathoey (a Thai concept that groups transgender people with cross dressing gay men) being able to wear the school uniforms and using the washrooms of their preferred gender was also an issue.
‘The report confirms what many of us know and have lived through,’ said Anjana Suvarnananda, founder of Anjaree Foundation.
‘Even going to school toilets makes us vulnerable to abuse and harassment as we are not accepted at washrooms designated for either sex.’