2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Last year, the 5th Congress of Education International reiterated its commitment to promote for all people and in all nations, peace, democracy, social justice and equality.
Yet a large number of people around the world are denied their rights and freedom. Being lesbian or gay is risking jail time in 86 countries and death penalty in 7, reports the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). People are denied or restricted in their constitutional right to freedom of assembly and expression or face aggressive and violent rejection from radicals, nationalists and religious fundamentalists.
In some countries, discrimination based on sexual orientation in vocational guidance and training is not prohibited, and in many countries, national discrimination bodies do not cover sexual orientation. Increasingly trade unions take an active role removing barriers and promoting protective measures.
The International Day against Homophobia 1 (IDAHO), on May 17, has become a symbolic date to advocate for values of tolerance, freedom, equality and fundamental human rights, calling for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality in peaceful demonstrations and prides events.
On this occasion, EI renews its commitment to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teachers and education personnel in unions and in society. Shortcomings are observed with regard to the implementation of policies and the lack of specific provision in employment and outside of employment. "Quality education includes the recognition and respect for diversity", said Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary.
"We firmly believe that our job, as teachers and education workers, is to teach for peace and understanding. The struggle to overcome discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to support vulnerable LGBT students and teachers requires capacity building and awareness-raising opportunities on these issues. Effective teacher training should develop skills to address controversial issues, and EI is taking up the challenge", he added.
EI is also proud to announce the holding of its Pan European Seminar on "Education unions: building respect for diversity" which will address the challenges faced by education unions, with a focus on LGBT rights. It will also make recommendations of specific programmes to be implemented in the region.
EI encourages all affiliates to act, depending on their own circumstances, and carry out campaigning efforts in cooperation with civil society organizations to prevent and eradicate discrimination on any ground, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
1On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization's General Assembly removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders.