The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape has welcomed the move by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to draft South Africa’s first Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Guidelines. DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Education Lorraine Botha said the guidelines are a landmark towards achieving proper understanding and respect for LGBTQ+ rights at schools.

GUIDELINES DEVELOPED FOR LGBTQ+ RIGHTS

Botha explained that with the rise of homophobia, transphobia, and gender-based violence, the guidelines will fill the gap left by the National Department of Basic Education. 

According to Botha, the national department has only referenced LGBTQ+ people twice across 38 textbooks in nine school subjects.

“Schools have for too long been a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming students. 16-year-old Liyabona Mabishi was stabbed 13 times and murdered in Khayelitsha for his sexuality. A Robertson school teacher was assaulted by parents for his sexual orientation, and recently a pastor visiting De Kuilen High School in Cape Town told students that gay individuals are bound for hell,” she said. 

Botha said the Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Guidelines and policy aims to sensitise public schools and the education environment to LGBTQ+ rights, in the promotion of a more inclusive approach and progressive realisation of our Constitutional rights. 

“In the Western Cape, transgender students are already the first in the country permitted to select the school uniform in line with their gender identity. The new draft guidelines take this one step further – in the right direction,” she said. 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DRAFT POLICY 

Highlights of the draft policy guidelines include:

  • Sensitivity and confidentiality for students deciding to reveal their sexual orientation, with support offered by social workers or psychologists;
  • Allowing for unisex bathroom facilities;
  • Careful consideration for LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming students during school excursions;
  • Requirement that all students may bring a partner of their choice to school functions and matric dances, regardless of sexual orientation;
  • Recommendations for safe spaces and social diversity associations at schools; and
  • Encouragement for sexual orientation, gender identity, homophobia, and transphobia. 

If passed, the WCED’s guidelines will allow the department to train school learners, management, teachers, and governing bodies on the principles of gender and sexual diversity.

MPP Botha adds: “I have written to the national Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, requesting an update on her department’s plans for updating the national curriculum to be in line with gender and sexual orientation awareness. It has been over a year since her department set up a committee of about 100 experts for this purpose, but we are not aware of any developments to-date.”

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Presh JM Reporter

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