» Fighting homophobia and transphobia in Cuban schools
20.06.2017 - Education Sector

Fighting homophobia and transphobia in Cuban schools

© CENESEX - Dr. Mariela Castro (CENESEX) and Mr. Christophe Cornu (UNESCO) at the press conference

UNESCO was invited to Cuba to celebrate the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Cuba recognizes the leading role that the organization plays in supporting efforts of countries to prevent and address violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Cuba celebrated for the tenth year the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). Each year since 2007, informative and festive activities take place in several Cuban cities during several days to mark the IDAHOT, which is celebrated globally on 17 May.

“Schools without homophobia and transphobia”

Activities are organized by the National Centre for Sexuality Education (CENESEX), an organization whose Director is Dr. Mariela Castro Espín, who is also a Member of Parliament and the daughter of the President of the Republic of Cuba, Mr. Raúl Castro.

This year the theme chosen by CENESEX was “Schools without homophobia and transphobia”. CENESEX invited UNESCO to participate in the celebration of the IDAHOT, in recognition of the leading role that the organization plays in supporting efforts of countries to prevent and address school violence and bullying, including that based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

During a press conference with local media, Dr. Mariela Castro and Mr. Christophe Cornu, Team Leader in the Section of Health and Education at UNESCO headquarters, stressed the negative educational and health consequences of school-related homophobic and transphobic violence on equal access to education. This acts against the provision of safe, non-violent and inclusive learning environments for all children and adolescents (UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 target 4.a).

“Combatting homophobia and transphobia, in and through education, contributes to building inclusive education and societies,” said Dr. Mariela Castro.

Homophobic and transphobic school violence is a form of gender-based violence

The celebrations of the IDAHOT in Cuba gave the opportunity to gather 1,000 university students and secondary and tertiary education teachers at the University of Las Villas in Santa Clara around the issues of homophobia and transphobia in education.

Mr. Cornu explained how homophobic and transphobic violence and bullying manifest in schools, and that it is a form of gender-based violence, fuelled by gender norms and stereotypes. Data on the high prevalence of homophobic and transphobic violence and bullying in the world, and particularly Latin America, were shared. The components of an effective education sector response were described, based on the best practice from all around the world documented by UNESCO over the last years, and synthesized in the report published in 2016, Out in the Open: Education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

During a lively debate, participants in the audience talked about their own experience of homophobic and transphobic violence in Cuban educational settings, as teachers or students.

CENESEX and UNESCO will collaborate to generate evidence on the situation in Cuba

There is currently little scientific evidence available on the prevalence of homophobic and transphobic violence in educational settings in Cuba, and on the existing response. CENESEX and UNESCO, through its Office in the Havana, have agreed to work together to generate data that  will help the Cuban government and national education stakeholders design evidence-based programmes to combat more effectively school-related homophobic and transphobic violence.

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