Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Times: Campaign to curb bullying of gay students

Thursday, December 8, 2011, by Sarah Carabott

Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator Gabriella Calleja.

The Malta Gay Rights Movement has launched an awareness campaign targeted at students, seeking to end the stigma against homosexual youth and to curb bullying provoked by sexual orientation.

“Although more LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) people are coming out at an early age, it does not mean that being gay has become an easy reality,” the movement’s coordinator Gabriella Calleja said.

The bullying made it even worse for those struggling to accept their sexual orientation, she said.

Research, she added, showed that a large percentage of Maltese LGBT students were being harassed at school.

The campaign is called “Think before you speak: Making life better for LGBT youth”. Targeting secondary and post-secondary schools, it speaks out against the use of derogatory language and physical bullying because of a person’s sexual orientation, encourages gays to “come out” and refrain from self-inflicted pain, and urges parents to accept their homosexual offspring.

Drachma Parents, an inclusive Catholic group, has joined MGRM to help parents “who are still in their closet and did not accept their children’s sexual orientation.”

The group’s representative Anthony Girard said it had insisted on the concept of unconditional love during a meeting with Archbishop Paul Cremona last year.

“Although the meeting was cordial, we can never agree that we’ll accept our children’s sexual orientation with reservations. There is a serious problem of relatives accepting LGBT people, and we help parents get out of their comfort zone to meet reality,” he said.

The €9,000 audio-visual project includes lesson plan resources and is funded by Voices Foundation, a non-profit organisation which raises money for charitable causes.

Ms Calleja said MGRM had expressed its concern at the lack of reference to issues affecting LGBT students in the draft National Curriculum Framework. It was important that schools endorsed a strategy which addressed homophobic bullying, Ms Calleja said.

The campaign was launched as US President Barack Obama issued a directive instructing government agencies to consider gay rights when taking aid decisions, in a bid to fight the criminalisation of homosexual behaviour abroad.

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