LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia


Why is education one of ILGA-Europe’s priority work areas?

LGBTI people can be bullied, abused or discriminated against in education settings all over Europe. Fundamental Rights Agency’s 2012 EU LGBT Survey showed that 91% of the respondents had experienced negative comments or witnessed negative attitudes or conduct. Consequently, a large number of LGBTI people can feel isolated, vulnerable or completely invisible within the school system. How LGBTI people are treated while in education can severely impact upon their mental health, leading to underachievement, an increased risk of dropping out, low self-esteem or even suicidal tendencies.

What are the main issues?

LGBTI issues in educational settings are widely taboo – they are often not reflected in curriculum and homophobia or transphobia are not adequately challenged. In addition, there is a general lack of sensitivity and staff training on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender roles. This leads to…

  • School bullying, which has a devastating impact on LGBTI youth. It should and can be fought. Naturally, bullying can manifest itself is various forms - - everything from name-calling and isolating LGBTI young people to physical assaults. What is common to all victims’ experiences is the huge psychological consequences. In most cases, victims of LGBTI-phobic bullying cannot automatically count on their family support, unlike young people harassed because of their ethnic origin or disability for example.
  • Discrimination and lack of visibility, which isolates LGBTI people in schools. The concept of heteronormativity is reinforced either through the textbooks, curricula, lack of representation of LGBTI families, wearing of gender binary school uniforms, and even by social events in schools that do not embrace LGBTI people. Gender-variant children are alienated as they in many cases have no access to gender neutral bathrooms or uniforms, and many school activities are divided by gender.

What is being done on national level and by the European institutions?

There are great initiatives on education with a focus on LGBTI issues being carried out at local and national levels. Most of this work is being done in the Western part of Europe, whereas some Central and Eastern European countries lack focus on the issue.

Examples of good initiatives include: governmental action plans to fight bullying in Ireland; the introduction of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in Sweden and UK, which covers LGBTI-phobic bullying and the use of pedagogical inspectors monitoring bullying in United Kingdom. Also a large number of ILGA-Europe member organisations have done some remarkable work within the education area; from data collection of bullying/discrimination incidents in schools to awareness raising campaigns aimed at creating inclusive and safe schools. Find good practices from our members and partners in our Resource section (coming up).

The European Union (EU) has limited competences in the field of education. Still the EU can play an important role with non-legislative measure, such as sharing good practices, peer-learning, youth initiatives and using its programmes (Erasmus+, etc.) and agencies for training of teachers.

The Council of Europe have multiple tools to fight discrimination of LGBTI people in educational settings. Most notable is the Committee of Ministers recommendation from 2010 which explicitly called on measures to fight discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in education.

How does ILGA-Europe work on education?

Building inclusive and safe schools for everyone is a priority for ILGA-Europe. This needs to be a priority for European governments and for European institutions too. We are aiming to make this happen by working with relevant actors and allies, such as policy makers (at national and European levels), teachers and children rights organisations.

We are supporting projects by member organisations or NGO partners by sharing our own knowledge and expertise. We are constantly in contact with other key stakeholders in the field of education in order to coordinate the initiatives being carried out all over Europe.

In addition, ILGA-Europe is advocating at European and international level for safer, more inclusive schools. We are closely monitoring developments within the European institutions, and provide input whenever possible. The aim is to increase the legal protection against discrimination of LGBTI people in access to education. This can be done by securing new European anti-discrimination legislation and promoting the effective implementation of relevant international and European human rights instruments.