Thai LGBT campaigners petition gov’t over ‘homophobic’ health education

Photo: Teirra Kamolvattanavith/ Coconuts Media
Photo: Teirra Kamolvattanavith/ Coconuts Media

About a dozen LGBT campaigners joined a high school senior yesterday in submitting a complaint to the government, urging them to eliminate “homophobic” health education, including secondary school textbooks that describe homosexuality as “a problem.”

The activists appeared before the Committee on Consideration of Unfair Gender Discrimination, a government-appointed group dealing with gender bias issues, in hopes of pressuring the Ministry of Education to abolish, or at least, revise secondary school gender education materials they say incite prejudice, discrimination and possibly even violence towards LGBT individuals, reported Matichon.

For instance, one 11th-grade textbook declares homosexuality “a problem that can be found in both men and women, which can be seen when an individual acts inappropriately like being gay… not according to the structure of society.”

The textbook goes on to advise parents to “take their LGBT kids to psychiatrists.”

In another section, female and male roles are written out in a very black and white, matter-of-fact manner.

Photo: Facebook/ Bangkok Rainbow Organization
Photo: Facebook/ Bangkok Rainbow Organization

It states that men should be muscular, unemotional, strong, partake in active or adventurous activities, and wear pants. Meanwhile, women are supposed to be slim, emotional, soft-spoken, wear skirts and “beautiful dresses,” take care of their appearance, and be interested in housework.

The advocates believes that — in addition to portraying those falling elsewhere on the spectrum of sexuality as “sexual deviants,” “individuals with no future” and “troubled” — the curriculum teaches archaic, biased gender roles that, in turn, deny basic human rights.

And it’s not just a few schools using these materials, the books in question are government-approved and currently in use at about 30,000 secondary schools across Thailand.

“Students are learning from these textbooks that we [LGBT] people are abnormal or sick, when books are supposed to be the foundation of knowledge that teach children to grow into moral adults,” said Parit Chomcheun, a transgender activist.

It will, reportedly, take the committee eight to 10 months to reach a decision.

Parit said the textbooks lead children to develop unhealthy attitudes toward LGBT individuals by labeling them as “mentally ill” despite the World Health Organization (WHO) no longer classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Quoting from the WHO, the group said that “failure to uphold the human rights of LGBT people and protect them against abuses such as violence and discriminatory laws and practices constitute serious violations of international human rights law and have a far-reaching impact on society.”

In response, Nitsuda Apinunpaporn, head of the committee responsible for the textbooks, told The Nation that the Education Ministry regularly reviews its health education books, however, “the problematic books were written before the Gender Equality Act was enforced in 2015.”

To which, we can’t help but ask, what is the ministry’s definition of “regular” reviews?

Campaigners -- Photo: Facebook/ Bangkok Rainbow Organization
Photo: Facebook/ Bangkok Rainbow Organization

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