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Gay rights groups call for LGBT-inclusive education at school

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Published : 2017-02-08 15:03
Updated : 2017-02-08 15:03

Civic groups in support of sexual minorities on Wednesday called for the abolishment of the Education Ministry’s sex education policy which excludes any mention of sexual minorities, calling it “discriminatory.”

“The Education Ministry should discard the sex education guidelines which only promote discrimination and prejudice against sexual minorities and should opt to give LGBT-inclusive education,” they said during a press conference held in front of the government complex in central Seoul.

The Education Ministry in late January confirmed its stance to exclude the LGBT -- lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender -- topics in its new guidelines, rekindling controversy over educating students about homosexuality at schools.

Civic groups in support of sexual minorities call for the abolishment of the Education Ministry‘s controversial guidelines for sex education during a press conference in front of the Seoul Government Complex, Wednesday (Yonhap)
So far, mentions of LGBT people are non-existent in textbooks and education materials at schools in South Korea. 

The government remains reluctant to bring the LGBT topics to the fore in the education field, citing anti-LGBT sentiments in the country. It said that it requires a social consensus and long-term discussion to include homosexuality in its education curriculum.

“The education ministry’s sex education guidelines are a regression excluding sexual minorities and solidifying gender roles,” said Park Hyun-yi, an activist at Seoul Youth Sex Culture Center. “The guidelines that do not even mention ‘masturbation’ or ‘sexual minority’ are stifling sex education.” 

Human Rights Watch, an international human rights group, also recommended the South Korean government to revise its guidelines to include description about sexual minorities, citing its “discriminatory” impact. 

In the face of the backlash, the Education Ministry said that guidelines are only to help teachers with giving their students sex education and that teachers can educate their students about homosexuality at their own discretion. 

The Education Ministry mapped out the 40-page guidelines for schools nationwide in March 2015, which drew criticism for solidifying gender roles and stressing abstinence from sex. One of the controversial tips in the guidelines said that girls should not be with their boyfriends alone in order to avoid sexual violence. 

Sexual minorities still live largely on the fringes of Korean society, as the majority of Koreans remain intolerant of homosexuality and LGBT children are more vulnerable to such intolerance. 

According to a 2015 survey by a public interest lawyers’ group GongGam on 200 LGBT youth, aged 13 to 18, one in five attempted a suicide. Seven out of 11 of those who quit school did so due to discrimination, isolation and fear, the survey showed.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)