Gavrielides, T. (2008). Homophobic Bullying and Human Rights: Share values for a shared future, London: IARS Publications. ISBN: 978-1-907641-36-7.
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Over the last decade some steps have been taken towards equality on the statute books for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people. However, the real life experience of being gay is far from what law and policy intends. Discrimination, inequality and fear of being attacked just because you are different are some of the realities faced by many LGBT people. Data released in June 2008 indicate that one in five LGBT people have experienced homophobic crime in the last three years and three in four of them did not report it.
The experience and realisation of being gay is particularly difficult for young people. In today's highly competitive and isolating society understanding and accepting who you are is not easy, and being attacked by your peers for being different makes the experience even more difficult. Due to homophobic bullying in schools, young people who identify as LGB are more likely to quit their education early while some may adopt a harmful behaviour to themselves and others. Research has also shown that 82% of secondary school teachers are aware of verbal homophobic abuse in schools but only 6% of schools have anti-homophobia policies. We know that only a handful of schools have developed mechanisms to tackle this problem and this is mainly because they wont accept that they have it. Rarely you will see a proactive approach to homophobia as there is anxiety by certain groups that if children and young people are taught about gay people they will become gay themselves.
Therefore, a balanced approach to the problem needs to be identified. One that welcomes differences and at the same time respects the rights of others. The framework of human rights, although significantly misunderstood by the media and the public, can provide the language to negotiate the solutions that are needed.
Homophobic Bullying and Human Rights: Share values for a shared future
“Much has been said about the social problem of homophobic bullying and what needs to be done to address it. However, little effort has been made to find out what young people think about such bullying and what changes they would like to see to address the issue. Sadly, homophobia and bullying happens in many areas of society but the effect it has on young people can ruin their lives. The Equalities Review gave evidence that due to homophobic bullying in schools, young lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more likely to quit their education early. They are therefore at risk of having lower educational skills and as a result the loss to the economy is estimated at £80 billion a year. Policies and practices addressing homophobic bullying within the criminal justice system, education and public services are frequently set up without consulting young people.
This excellent youth-led e-book is timely and I am very pleased to be invited to introduce it. The findings illustrate the impact youth empowerment can have on young people through human rights education and volunteering as well as how values such as dignity and respect can be introduced into schools to address homophobia and bullying. IARS' Youth Empowerment Project is an excellent model that brings young Londoners, particularly from disadvantaged groups, together to influence policies that affect their lives, and support decision makers in making changes that are grounded in reality and respond to real need. I encourage anybody working with young people to read this important report and listen to the voices of young people". Tony Shepherd Chief Executive Safer London Foundation