Despite significant improvements in recent decades, homophobic harassment and prejudicial treatment continues to span all occupations, including education. The presence of homophobic behavior and attitudes, in all regions, affects the workplace culture which in turn creates hostile and unsafe environments for lesbian and gay teachers.
Education unions have a proud record of taking an active stand for positive legal changes and the effective implementation of policies to end violence, discrimination or any criminal act against education workers, as well as students, because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This work must go on.
EI congratulates all members that fight for equal rights in the workplace and raise awareness of issues related to discrimination in education, particularly homophobia. These efforts help to make the trade union movement more pluralistic and inclusive of all workers.
EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, said: “On this International Day Against Homophobia, EI reaffirms our efforts to promote and protect the basic rights of LGBT people, including the freedom of expression, assembly and association.” Despite the challenges and the setbacks, there have been enough successes to demonstrate that the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are better respected today than ever before. However, real challenges lie ahead. It is documented that 85 countries still have laws criminalizing homosexuality, which negatively affects the quality of their education systems and the promotion of safe and conducive environments for teaching and learning.
Welcoming the first Conference on LGBT equality in Central and Eastern Europe, organized by the Polish Confederation of Trade Unions (OPZZ), which includes EI member teachers’ union, ZNP, EI Deputy General, Jan Eastman, said: “Nothing is impossible!”
The trade union Conference will take place during the Equality Parade “Liberty, Equality, Tolerance” in Warsaw, Poland, on 18 July, 2010. EI member organisations are also encouraged to engage with LGBT initiatives and participate in related pride events in their countries.