Press Release

The IACHR is concerned about violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons in the context of education and family settings

November 22, 2013

Washington, D.C. - The IACHR has received troubling information concerning violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) children, or those perceived as such, which is perpetrated by peers, teachers and relatives, as well as discrimination against LGBTI teachers in schools. Prejudice and social stigma are particularly harmful to children and OAS Member States must ensure that education at all levels contributes to the elimination of biased stereotypes of LGBTI persons.

During the months of August, September and October 2013, the Commission was informed that at least two teenagers committed suicide after reportedly enduring prolonged and severe school bullying based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation and/or gender expression, one in the United States and one in Mexico. Additionally, the Commission was informed of the attempted suicide of a young boy, reportedly due to severe homophobic bullying perpetrated by his math teacher in the United States. Meanwhile, in Argentina, a young gay man was reportedly intercepted, attacked and severely hit on the head by his former schoolmates.

The IACHR was also informed of two cases, one in Brazil and one in the United States, in which young boys were severely beaten on a regular basis by their parents because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation and/or gender expression. The Inter-American Commission calls upon States to comply with their obligation to protect all children from any form of violence and ensure their right to physical and mental integrity, including within the context of families.

According to the information received from August to October 2013, at least one lesbian and one trans teacher were dismissed in the United States on the basis of discrimination. Demonstrations in support of a third teacher, a gay man dismissed earlier this year, also took place during this period. The Inter American Commission condemns acts of retaliation, intimidation, or harassment in the workplace based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. This is particularly important in the education context. Actions of this kind send a strong social message to LGBTI persons that the open expression of their orientations or identities is not accepted, while promoting anti-LGBTI feelings among children and teachers, fostering bullying and discrimination, and reinforcing stigma and feelings of shame and inferiority among LGBTI persons. Consequently, the IACHR urges OAS Member States to adopt and enforce effective measures to prevent discrimination against LGBTI persons both in public and in private educational institutions.

Discrimination also takes place against children of same sex couples. In fact, the Commission received information about a case in Mexico in which a 2-year-old girl was dismissed from a private school for having two fathers. As a result, local authorities issued several recommendations to the institution to abide by local laws and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In a recent Expert Meeting on Education, Culture, and Rights of LGBTI Persons convened by the Commission, the Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, Commissioner Rosa María Ortiz, underscored the role of education as a strategic tool to address and eliminate prejudice, stereotypes, and false conceptions regarding persons with diverse sexual orientations or gender identities. The IACHR hereby reaffirms the key role of education in human rights to achieve a cultural change that fully embraces diversity and the promotion of acceptance of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. States must therefore ensure that their education policies are specially designed to modify social and cultural patterns of conduct, to counteract prejudices and customs and to eradicate practices based on stereotypes of LGBTI persons, which may legitimize or exacerbate violence against them.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 92/13