A new report by UNESCO has revealed the extent of homophobic bullying worldwide, recognizing the problem as a human rights issue.
The UN agency’s first ever international consultation on the issue brought together experts from NGOs, ministries of education and academia from more than 25 countries around the world.
The report states that, based on evidence collected, the scale of the problem is ‘significant’ and as a result students around the world are routinely denied the ‘basic, universal human right to education’.
It follows UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s statement that homophobic bullying is ‘a moral outrage, a grave violation of human rights and a public health crisis’.
Although UNESCO admits relatively few countries have collected data on homophobic bullying in educational institutions, the report shows the UK and US have among the highest levels of reported cases.
While in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and in Latin America, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender pupils are denied access to school and in the US students reported regularly missing classes because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
In Argentina, transgender pupils reported that they stopped studying, either because of homophobic bullying by other learners or because they are denied entry by school authorities. Of those surveyed, 45% dropped out of secondary school and only 2.3 % completed college.
Data also revealed that seven in 10 lesbian, gay and bisexual learners in the UK who experienced homophobic bullying reported that this had a negative impact on their school work, with 50% of those affected missing school and 20% missing school more than six times.
According to research conducted by UK-based gay rights group Stonewall, homophobic bullying is the most common form of bullying in Britain.
Wes Streeting, head of education at UK-based gay rights group Stonewall, said: ‘The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights is right to recognize homophobic bullying as “a moral outrage” and “a grave violation of human rights” across the globe and we are delighted that Stonewall’s work in Britain has been recognized by this important UN study.
‘Our research, involving thousands of teachers and young people around Britain, consistently shows that homophobic bullying can seriously harm young people’s mental health and educational attainment.
‘That’s why we work so closely with schools and local authorities through our School and Education Champions programs to help them tackle and prevent it.’
On July 5, Stonewall will release its five-yearly School Report research into homophobia in Britain’s schools, which is based on a survey of over 1,600 lesbian, gay and bisexual young people across Britain.
The survey was carried out by the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Family Research.