- Today is the first International Day Against Violence and Bullying at School Including Cyberbullying.
LGBT+ children are particularly frequent victims of bullying around the world, from fellow students, teachers and online.
United Nations agencies say more than 246 million children suffer gender-based violence in or around schools every year. One in three students experiences bullying and physical violence. Meanwhile half of the world’s adolescents report violence from peers at school.
Now Human Rights Watch is calling on governments to ensure student’s safety at school and online. Its demands come as the world marks the first International Day Against Violence and Bullying at School Including Cyberbullying today.
The organization’s own research in over 15 countries uncovered corporal punishment, sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment, physical violence, and bullying. Teachers and school officials, as well as other students, are often the abusers.
Meanwhile it says LGBT+ students frequently experience higher levels of violence and bullying, alongside girls, children with disabilities and refugee kids.
Because society often openly discriminates against these children, many end up suffering in silence.
Elin Martinez, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, says:
‘It’s outrageous that students in many countries suffer terrible violence in school that can affect them for the rest of their lives. Grave abuses like sexual and physical violence seriously affect students’ dignity, their bodily autonomy, and their ability to learn and to feel safe at school.
‘Children have a right to learn in a safe physical or online environment and should be able to trust adults who have a legal and moral duty to protect them.
‘This key principle should guide every government’s efforts to address and ultimately eradicate the scourge of violence and bullying in schools and online spaces.’
LGBT+ students bullied online and off
Human Rights Watch confirms that LGBT+ students face higher levels of bullying, discrimination and violence. However, many countries are so prejudiced they exclude them from anti-bullying policies and efforts to curb attacks.
For example, in Japan and Vietnam, a lack of teacher training and accountability means that teachers both allow and contribute to bullying of LGBT students.
Likewise, cyberbullying also affects LGBT youth. Abuses can move from classrooms to online spaces.
In countries as wide-ranging as the Philippines and the United States, LGBT+ students described anti-LGBT+ comments and slurs. They also said social media means rumors about them spread rapidly.
Human Rights Watch says the public exposure and ridicule they suffer harms both their mental health and academic achievement.
Teachers sexually exploit girls
Meanwhile girls also find themselves falling prey to the bullies.
In Senegal and Tanzania, for example, teachers and school officials frequently sexually exploit girls in exchange for money for school fees, grades, and basic items like menstrual pads.
Many girls don’t report sexual violence because school officials do not believe them, especially when teachers are the abusers.
Likewise, corporal punishment remains legal in schools in a shocking 67 or more countries.
In Lebanon, children are frequently beaten, slapped, and humiliated.
Moreover, in South Africa, some children with disabilities, particularly sensory and intellectual disabilities, and children with autism, suffer physical violence, verbal abuse, and neglect by teachers and assistants in mainstream and special schools.
Human Rights Watch says governments should act to make schools and online spaces safe. Those with policies already should make sure they include LGBT+ students, girls and children with disabilities.
Meanwhile schools should have confidential reporting systems and responsible adults pupils can turn to. They should work with child protection and health services to support victims, and to offer emergency contraception. They should also provide inclusive sex education.