French children to learn gay issues at primary school
As part of a broad raft of measures to help fight homophobia in France, the government has announced plans to include educating primary school children about homosexual relationships and same-sex parenting.
French Minister for Women’s Rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem on Wednesday unveiled wide-ranging plans to fight homophobia in France that include teaching primary school children about issues affecting LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.
She said the Education Ministry was looking at changes to the school curriculum designed to reduce the number of teenage suicides that often result from playground bullying.
The proposals follow consultations with scores of LGBT associations and are part of a wider scheme to make France a “world leader in the fight against homophobia”.
But the frontline in the fight against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is education, according to Daniel Labaquere, National Secretary for the SNUiip teachers’ union, who welcomed Wednesday’s announcement as “the government finally acting, not just making promises.”
Labaquere told FRANCE 24 that the government’s ambition to write awareness of gay and single-parenting issues into the school curriculum – for children as young as six or seven – is essential to nip homophobia in the bud.
He said the word “pédé” (a vulgar and offensive term meaning “gay”) was France’s most widely-used playground insult, whose use was extremely damaging “not just to a young teenager who might be gay, but because of the stigma and feeling of inferiority it can put on children who aren’t”.
‘It’s all about respect’
France has an estimated 300,000 school children who come from homes with same-sex couples, according to Labaquere.
“If these children are going to feel like they come from normal families, their classmates need to understand the issues,” he said.
“It isn’t right that we have children in the school system whose home lives are misunderstood, who get bullied and excluded as a result.”
Changes to the curriculum, he insisted, would not involve active promotion of homosexuality or explanations of “what people do in private”, but would help explain “the importance of relationships and of love.”
“This is all about teaching children to respect each other regardless of their backgrounds,” he said. “It’s exactly the same as dealing with the kind of ignorance that leads to children being bullied for wearing glasses or for being fat.”
A broad raft of proposals
Among the measures announced on Wednesday are plans for improved training and support for police officers dealing with homophobic hate crimes, as well as moves towards giving transgender people legal recognition of their new genders.
Also on the table are laws that would give greater parenting rights to same-sex couples and to give them access to Medically Assisted Procreation (MAP) such as IVF treatment, which is currently only available to heterosexual couples.
Vallaud-Belkacem also said an inter-ministerial group was working on ways to clamp down on (mainly religious) organisations in France who claim they can “cure” people of homosexuality.
The announcement comes as the government continues to press ahead with a bill to legalise same-sex marriage, which is due to be voted in January 2013.
And while gay marriage the bill in its current form has been criticised by for not going far enough to give same-sex couples the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, LGBT campaigners broadly welcomed Wednesday’s announcement.
Stéphane Cordin, spokesman for the French LGBT Federation, told FRANCE 24: “It is the first time the French government has shown itself willing to get so involved in fighting homophobia. It is very encouraging.
“Big changes can be achieved very quickly that will make a big difference to our society and for the welfare of victims of homophobic crimes and bullying.”
The French government is hoping its ambitions to eliminate homophobia in France can reverberate internationally, and will push for a United Nations resolution for global decriminalisation of homosexuality, Vallaud-Belkacem said on Wednesday.
“In Europe we will work towards having a common stance, while in France we will strengthen our protection for asylum seekers whose lives are in danger because of their sexual orientation,” she said.