The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has given his backing to the European Parliament’s call for action on homophobic bullying.
Research by gay rights group ILGA Europe and their youth wing last year examined social exclusion among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) kids in Europe.
They spoke to over 750 young LGBT people from 37 countries and found that over half (53%) had experienced bullying in school.
61% of respondents had experienced discrimination and prejudice in school.
In July 2006 Stonewall held a conference, “Tackling Homophobia in our Schools,” and were joined by Mr Livingstone for the launch of a free DVD, entitled Spell It Out, for distribution to teachers in all London’s secondary schools.
“I welcome and strongly support this European Parliament declaration and its call for urgent action by EU states to tackle homophobic bullying in all its forms,” Mr Livingstone said today.
“Despite the hard work of many teachers we still have a very long way to go to eliminate homophobic bullying from schools.
“It should be a basic expectation that all pupils in our schools should be able to complete their studies without experiencing the problem of bullying.
“Many young people are denied the opportunity to achieve their academic potential because of homophobic bullying, exclusion and harassment.”
Mr Livingstone added that anecdotal feedback from school staff using the Stonewall DVD has been very positive.
Johan Jensen, education officer for Stonewall, told PinkNews.co.uk:
“Stonewall and “Education for All” have distributed the DVD across London in collaboration with the Greater London Authority and we are planning to distribute it nationally in the future.
“The feedback from teachers and local authorities across London has been very welcome and we have had many requests for more copies.”
He also revealed that a second conference to be held in July will look at ways of tackling homophobic bullying in primary as well as secondary schools.
Michael Cashman, the MEP for the West Midlands who sometimes still gets recognised for playing 1980s gay character Colin in Eastenders, is one of the members supporting the statement from the European Parliament.
“Homophobic bullying is a huge problem across Europe,” he told PinkNews.co.uk
“A lot of the time we are dealing with countries who don’t want to deal with LGB issues on the basis of their religious beliefs. Poland, Malta and Latvia are examples.
“That is why we have put down at EU level a written declaration, calling on the European Commission and the Council of Ministers to take action to combat homophobic bullying.”
Mr Cashman said that the UK leads the way on this issue, and used a startling statistic to illustrate how far ahead of the rest of Europe in terms of attitudes to LGB people Britain actually is.
“50% of the openly lesbian and gay MEPs come from the UK – that’s me,” he said.
“A Parliament that represents 27 countries and half a billion people only has two out MEPs.
“I wouldn’t say there is a very big closet here – it would have to be a very large nuclear bunker.”
There are currently 785 MEPs.