Current Affairs

MEPs highlight homophobic bullying in school

Tony Grew February 13, 2007
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Members of the European Parliament from across the EU are to present a written declaration on combating homophobic bullying as new research shows that kids across the continent are being victimised.

The MEPs have chosen Valentines Day to highlight the extent to which LGBT teens in all EU countries experience abuse and intimidation at school.

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.

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.

“Homophobic bullying is a huge problem across Europe,” he told

“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.

In July 2006 Stonewall held a conference, “Tackling Homophobia in our Schools,” and launched a free DVD, entitled Spell It Out, for distribution to teachers in all London’s secondary schools.

More than 100 key decision-makers in the education sector across Britain attended the conference as part of “Education for All,” Stonewall’s national programme to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying in our schools.

Johan Jensen, education officer for Stonewall, told

“It is encouraging that the European Parliament is taking this issue seriously.

“Homophobic bullying is affecting many children and young people, regardless of their sexuality, across the UK.”

Mr Jensen said that Stonewall now plan to expand the programme.

“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.

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