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LGBT and Human Rights

By Sinethemba Shezi – Intern Educational Psychologist

*LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender

It has been 13 years since South Africa became the first African country to legalize same-sex marriage. We have come a long way compared to other countries as our Constitution openly protects the rights of individuals from the LGBT community. Unfortunately, as much as we may have laws of protection they may not necessarily be enforced in reality. Due to intolerance within community’s LGBT persons have had their basic human rights violated as there have been multiple stories whereby LGBT persons have been physically assaulted, murdered and subjected to verbal abuse all purely because of how they choose to express their love. This experience of intolerance results in great trauma which in turn impacts their mental health negatively with some people suffering from depression, anxiety and committing suicide.

Unfortunately, our school environments display what is occurring in greater society with there being a deal of hostility and violence. This is certainly not a conducive environment for learning especially if there are learners who identify themselves as being part of the LGBT community. Studies conducted within South African schools have discovered that the schooling environment is a homophobic and hostile place for LBGT learners as they are often subjected to bullying in the form of teasing, harassment, cyberbullying and physical violence. Being subjected to this treatment and a lack of enforced accountability from school disciplinary teams results in LGBT learners often dropping out of school, their academic performance suffering, depression, trauma and in extreme cases committing suicide however, not all LGBT learners or persons may experience these negative consequences. There is growing tolerance through exposure and spreading of knowledge and events such as Pride (an all-inclusive event that is a representation and display of LGBT community self-acceptance, recognition, visibility and recognition to the greater society). This event highlights the importance that the LGBT community is present in society and that they should be treated equally like the rest of the members of society.

What you could do to assist LGBT persons:

· Support a learner or person by speaking to them and making them understand that you accept them, are non-judgemental of their sexuality and that you are behind them. Validating their feelings

· Informing yourself about the LGBT community as this will assist in you better understanding their experiences. You may even learn to identify changes in behaviour due to bullying such as isolation, academic decline, talk of ending one’s life, a person (at times) wishing that they could change their sexuality so that the bullying could stop etc.

· Exposing bullying is possible in an appropriate manner such as informing the school teachers and principle. Encouraging anti-bullying campaigns.

· Seeking professional help if there are behaviours which suggest depression or suicidal thoughts.

The intolerance, that continues to be seen is some communities, shows that some people in society still do not perceive that LGBT persons should have human rights due to their sexuality which is rather unfortunate as ultimately, we are all humans and have the right to be treated with dignity regardless of sexuality.

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