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Increased incidents of homophobic violence in schools

Increased incidents of bullying, derogatory comments due to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender characteristics, as well as sexist insults, even by teachers, are recorded in Greek schools, confirming the great distance that the educational system has to cover in order to contribute to tackling all kinds of discrimination and stereotypical behaviours. This follows from data presented at a recent workshop of KMOP – Social Action and Innovation Center on inclusion in the school environment.

Presenting the main findings of the research conducted by the Rainbow School, Ms Elena Skarpidou, Sex ed Educator & Head of Education at the organization, said that homophobic bullying starts at the age of 5-6 years and increases throughout adolescence. In fact, victimization at such a young age lead, according to Ms. Skarpidou, to serious problems such as reduced school performance, feelings of loneliness, increased anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. She stressed that victims avoid sharing what they are experiencing, fearing that they will be further stigmatised and possibly lose support from their families. At the same time, it seems that in incidents of homophobic bullying, observers intervene even less frequently than in other types of bullying, for fear that they themselves might be targeted.

Ms. Skarpidou stressed the need to design programmes to strengthen the inclusive environment at school for LGBTI children from the very first grades of school, but also to make sexual education a compulsory subject at all levels, from pre-school to high school. “There is a very great need to democratise schools, which will also help democratise society,” he said.

Very important are the findings of Colour Youth’s nationwide survey on school climate. As Mr Spyros Boviatsis, Project Manager of the CHOICE Project at Color Youth, said, more than one in three LGBTQ children who participated in the survey have been subjected to some form of verbal harassment, with 50% of these incidents related to gender expression, 32% to sexual orientation and 31% to gender. In addition, one in seven LGBTQ children have experienced some form of physical harassment and/or violence, while one in three LGBTQ children have experienced sexual harassment.

What is even more surprising is that about half of the children hear offensive comments from teachers, while one in three children say that they do not intervene. Also, of those who have been subjected to violence, about 30% have never reported it, while those who have reported it say that the response was little (30%) or not at all (27%) effective.

As noted at the event, these are facts that make it imperative that teachers at all levels be educated and sensitized on issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression with a focus on the rights and needs of the LGBTI student community.

The event took place in the framework of the European project CHOICE – promoting sCHOol enviroments InClusivE of diversity based on SOGI, which aims to promote an inclusive school environment and to combat intolerance based on gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and/or gender characteristics. As Ms. Iliana Konstantopoulou, Psychologist, Researcher at KMOP said, CHOICE includes a comprehensive mechanism to address incidents of violence and discrimination, which includes policies to respect diversity in schools, capacity building for teachers, an online system for reporting incidents of violence and/or intolerance, as well as support services for victims and witnesses of such incidents.

Ms. Katerina Rogakou and Ms. Natalia Bogea from the Hellenic Children’s Museum spoke about how art can help make school more inclusive. Specifically, they presented the European initiative Ed.G.E, which aims to raise awareness among children and adolescents about gender equality, gender norms and gender-based violence through the use of artistic and cultural activities, as well as to support the role of schools and museums in managing gender equality and preventing gender-based violence.

Finally, Ms. Aphrodite Azari, Project Manager at KMOP, presented the European initiative Commit against violent radicalisation and online extremist propaganda among young people aged 13-25 years old, as well as the free counselling line that has been created.

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Press release.