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Founder of BeLonG To Youth Services Speaks at UN Ahead of International Day Against Homophobia

Founder of BeLonG To Youth Services Speaks at UN Ahead of International Day Against Homophobia 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012 

Today, May 16th, Michael Barron of youth organisation BeLonG To, spoke at UNESCO’s launch of a new global manual on tackling homophobic bullying. The launch, which took place at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, was organised ahead of International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) which takes place on Thursday, May 17th. The publication of the manual marks an unprecedented move in raising awareness and promoting implementable procedures to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying in educational institutions around the world. The manual, which is entitled, Good Policy and Practice in HIV and Health Education – Booklet 8: Education Sector Responses to Homophobic Bullying, builds on elements of BeLonG To’s work to date.  

Homophobic bullying has been found to reduce school attendance, and lead to early school dropout and poorer academic performance and achievement. Homophobic bullying can also adversely affect young people’s mental health. This has serious educational consequences, negatively affecting an individual’s right to education.  

Speaking at the event, BeLonG To founder Michael Barron said, “Homophobic and transphobic bullying pose a serious physical and mental threat to young people. LGBT young people are too often being left isolated and alone to deal with homophobic bullying – no young person should have to experience this. It is an affront to basic human dignity. With the success of our Stand Up! Don’t Stand for Homophobic Bullying Campaign, BeLonG To were asked to contribute some ideas to the manual that was published today. This publication marks unprecedented recognition of the importance of eradicating homophobic bullying in schools around the world. We hope it will lead to implementable solutions that will help protect young people from homophobic and transphobic bullying, and in fact, from prejudice in all its forms. 

Speaking in December 2011, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon declared that homophobic bullying was a “moral outrage, a grave violation of human rights and a public health crisis…it is also a loss for the entire human family when promising lives are cut short.” The Secretary General called on governments around the world to take steps to combat homophobic bullying. Today’s conference built on the work of United Nation’s first ever international consultation to address the issue of homophobic bullying that took place last December in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Today’s conference  also featured contributions from a wide range of expert speakers, including Ms. Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, at the US Department of Education and Ms. Soo Hyang Choi, Director of the Division for Peace and Sustainable Development, UNESCO.  

The seriousness of homophobic bullying was highlighted in a major 2009 Children’s Research Centre study supported by the National Office for Suicide Prevention. The study found alarmingly high levels of self harm and attempted suicide amongst LGBT young people. It found that almost one third of LGBT young people had engaged in self-harm with one fifth of those surveyed having attempted suicide. The study also found that young people who experience homophobic and transphobic bullying are much more likely to attempt suicide.  

Follow Michael at UNESCO Live Here