"If we want education to be the main vector to achieve equal rights and combat discrimination, teachers themselves must first be set free," said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. He was speaking in Stockholm on 1 August at a seminar on "gay rights in education" organized by the Swedish teachers' union Lärarförbundet.
Van Leeuwen said that gay and lesbian teachers are not inclined to be open about their sexual orientation as long as they run the risk of being discriminated against.
Even in countries with anti-discrimination legislation in force, teachers' organisations report frequent violations of the human rights and labour standards of gay and lesbian members, ranging from psychological pressure, harassment and stigmatisation to arbitrary dismissals.
Van Leeuwen also said that the achievement of GLBT rights worldwide will largely depend on achieving democracy around the planet, and on our ability to put an end to poverty and to realise education for all.
The seminar was held on the occasion of "Europride," an annual event organised in various European capitals to celebrate diversity, promote GLBT rights and campaign against homophobia. Teachers' organisations played their part in several "gay parades" on 2 August.
Eva-Lis Sirén, President of Lärarförbundet and a member of the Executive Board of EI, took part in the Stockholm parade. Meanwhile in Amsterdam, Walter Dresscher, President of the Dutch teachers' union AOb, together with Dutch Education Minister Ronald Plasterk joined in the famous Amsterdam Gay Canal Boat Parade, demonstrating the support and solidarity of the education sector with the GLBT community.