As a way to promote safe spaces for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) students, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched #PurpleMySchool campaign to eradicate homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools.
Collaborating with Asia-Pacific countries, UNESCO and UNDP call for allies for LGBTI students to show their solidarity by submitting photos that feature the color purple to www.campaign.com/PurpleMySchool, or posting them to Instagram with the hashtag #PurpleMySchool.
During the three-day regional consultation in Bangkok, delegations from Australia, Cambodia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Samoa, Thailand, Tonga, and Vietnam committed to taking steps to address homophobic and transphobic bullying in educational institutions. The consultation that was held from 15-17 June 2015 also resulted in some countries pledging to set up concrete measures to work against the problem.
“We know [that] exclusion, bullying and violence have immediate, long-term and intergenerational effects. This includes school attendance, performance, and completion,” said UNESCO Bangkok Director Gwang-Jo Kim.
“And for those who think that bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity only affects LGBTI people? This is wrong. It affects the whole climate of the school and community,” he added.
Homophobic and transphobic bullying happens not only to people who “come out” as a homosexual or a transgender. While they do not identify as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, people who do not conform to the stereotype or norms of a certain gender also experience bullying. Citing UNESCO’s review of Homophobic Bullying in Educational Institutions, most bullying is sexual or gender-based, both in terms of the victim and the nature of the abuse itself. This condition makes the homophobic and transphobic bullying a problem not to be taken lightly.
In Indonesia, the government does not formally acknowledge the existence of LGBTI, nor are issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) neutrally addressed in public. Many obstacles, both culturally and religiously, are blocking the LGBTI and SOGI issues from being discussed in society, including discrimination and lack of protection from law and law enforcers.
However, this does not validate the homophobic and transphobic bullying that happen in educational institutions in Indonesia. The #PurpleMySchool campaign can be a way to both promote the inclusion of LGBTI students and spread the awareness of the dangers and natures of bullying regardless of its trigger.
Based on the UNESCO review, homophobic and transphobic bullying is a social and systematic phenomenon, and is a learned behavior. By standing up as an ally, we are breaking the systematic phenomenon as well as creating an environment where bullying, whatever the reason and intention, is never justifiable and that we should stand against it.
Aqila Putri is a sophomore studying at Wesleyan University, trying to pursue her degree in Economics and International Relations. Her daydreams consist of owning a bakery and a kitchen like Gordon Ramsay's. Hit her up at @aqilalistya to talk about food, cat, and social justice.