Sex panics and LGBTQ children’s rights to schooling

Authored by: Ryan R. Thoreson

Routledge Handbook of Queer African Studies

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138503472
eBook ISBN: 9781351141963
Adobe ISBN:


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In recent years, activists, scholars, and governments have increasingly focused on the unique needs of LGBTQ youth in schools. In addition to country-specific research projects and advocacy campaigns, supranational actors such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education recently have foregrounded the needs and vulnerabilities of LGBTQ learners, urging governments to take concrete steps to protect their rights. 1 Much of the existing literature on LGBTQ children’s rights has focused on bullying and harassment, comprehensive sexuality education, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. 2 Yet the pressing issues that LGBTQ students face vary considerably in different socio-political contexts. Where same-sex activity is criminalized, for example, organizing LGBTQ groups in secondary schools is unlikely to be an immediate priority for activists, and the distinctive design of educational systems mean that certain demands are more intelligible in some contexts than in others. Recent case studies in the US, 3 Canada, 4 Pakistan, 5 Japan, 6 China, 7 South Africa, 8 the Philippines, 9 and elsewhere demonstrate how discrimination against LGBTQ youth can manifest in locally specific forms. Globally, relatively little existing work focuses specifically on sub-Saharan Africa and the challenges facing LGBTQ youth navigating school environments in the region.

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