Few pupils understand homophobia, study finds

2011-10-17 00:00

YOUNG people do not understand what constitutes a hate crime or homophobia.

These are the findings released by the Gay and Lesbian Network last week from a study it conducted last year.

Data for the study were collected from 10 schools in Pietermaritzburg in an effort to engage teenagers on issues that affect homosexuals. Questionnaires for the study were answered anonymously by 1 301 pupils from diverse racial groups and different genders.

In a presentation psychologist and researcher Angeline Stephens said more studies exploring homophobia might be useful.

“Pupils do not see schools as a safe space to disclose that they are gay or lesbian because there are a lack of educative programmes and educative support services within schools.

“Nonetheless, the pupils feel that they do not need a programme that addresses these issues in schools.

“Younger pupils are more homophobic than older pupils, with male participants reporting higher levels of intolerance and aggressive behaviour towards homosexuals.

“If pupils understand tolerance they might be able to not bully or harass homosexuals.

“Schools have the authority to change and address prejudice through dialogue,” Stephens added.

The Gay and Lesbian Network has embarked on several projects this year to address the stigmatisation of homosexuals. They include workshops on heterosexism and personal development and the establishment of the PMB Hate Crime Task Team.

Director Anthony Waldhausen said the network is looking at ways to incorporate the study’s findings into the education curriculum.

“We would like to get into schools to do workshops on hate crimes because that is where the bullying and harassment are happening.

“We would also like the life orientation curriculum to include these issues because educators do not have the tools and the support to teach children on sexual orientation,” he added.

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