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UNESCO praises Irish anti-homophobic bullying campaign

International conference hears that BeLonG To group’s work will be written into the UN toolkit as an example of how to tackle homophobic bullying of young people.

Image: Still from the StandUp! campaign video via BelonGToYouthService/Youtube.com

A UNITED NATIONS report on how to tackle homophobic bullying has an Irish campaign group’s work as an example of “good practice” in this area.

BeLonG To is an organisation that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people in Ireland. The group is the driving force behind the ‘Stand Up!’ campaign which targeted schools and youth services around the country earlier this year in a bid to draw attention to homophobic bullying and what students can do to prevent it. A video created as part of the campaign has attracted over 750,000 hits on Youtube.

As a result of their work, the group was invited to participate in a UNESCO global consultation on homophobic bullying in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil this month. The meeting resulted in the ‘Rio Statement on Homophobic Bullying and Education for All‘ which sets out the agenda for battling “widespread violence and systemic discrimination and stigma” against gay, lesbian and transgender people. UN General-Secretary Ban Ki Moon described the discrimination and bullying as “a grave violation of human rights”.

Michael Barron, Executive Director of BeLonG To, told TheJournal.ie on his return from Rio this week that his group’s work was identified during the conference as “good practice” and a “positive response” to homophobia in the report on LGBT rights issued by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. He said:

We really have made great progress here and the way B2 works (directly with young people, general population awareness-raising, teacher training, strategic partnerships and high-end lobbying) was really celebrated there and is seen as the way to go.

It was a great privilege to present BeLonG To and Ireland at this first global UN consultation on homophobic bullying. What is clear is that we are making very good progress in this area in Ireland. In particular I would like to commend the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Education, and the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention for their progressive work in recent years.

However, Barron warned against complacency, saying that homophobic bullying is an issue of “huge urgency” and urged the Government to “reprioritise action to support LGBT young people”.

Read: Homophobic bullying is taking young lives, yet it’s treated as harmless>

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