Advocacy groups in South Africa are stepping up their efforts to prevent the country’s education department from creating safer environments for children of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations. Some of the advocacy groups have ties to conservative Christian groups in the United States.
On behalf of conservative organizations, Freedom of religion South Africathe Family Policy Institutethe African Christian Democratic Party Y Freedom Plus Front are creating controversy over the draft guidelines on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools. The guidelines have been made public through consultations with communities that began earlier this year.
The groups are concentrating on two elements of the guidelines to stoke panic. These are the provision of unisex toilets, which would not replace existing single-sex toilets, and the removal of gender pronouns.
Claiming that the guidelines are “ungodly” and “anti-family,” the groups argue that the rights of Christian learners and their families would be violated. The groups claim their opposition is based on religious beliefs, not hatred of LGBTIQ+ people.
But their objections run counter to South Africa’s constitutional mandate to create a society free from discrimination.
in a Press release, the education department has expressed disappointment that the narrow focus on unisex toilets is being used to create controversy. This distracts from the broader debate about eliminating gender discrimination in all spheres of society.
Homophobia and transphobia on the rise
researchers Y journalists have documented increases in incidents of homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools across the country in recent years. Some children facing discrimination have tragically taken their own lives.
Disinformation campaigns claim that gender diverse students pose a threat to cisgender (straight-identifying) students. But research shows that it is queer and transgender people who experience extreme levels of anxiety and fear in bathrooms and other school spaces.
The lobby against queer-friendly education
Last year, the African Christian Democratic Party organized a picket against the guidelines. The signs read “Down with gender identity and sexual orientation guidelines,” “Down with unisex toilets,” and “God created man and woman.”
Freedom of Religion South Africa is now trying to block the implementation of the guidelines through legal means. The organization claim (is they are unconstitutional and violate “parental rights” and “traditional values”. Statements like this normalize the discrimination many students face in schools.
Freedom of Religion South Africa director Michael Swain claims the department is importing “foreign” agendas. His group aims to put religious freedom above the right to equality and dignity. Anti-LGBTIQ+ Christian advocacy groups in the US, such as Alliance in defense of freedomThey have tried to do the same.
The Family Policy Institute of South Africa has been labor with us “hate group” international family clock in a campaign against Comprehensive Sexuality Education In schools. They plan to “reveal harmful content” on the show and call it “dangerous sexual indoctrination.”
The founder of the Family Policy Institute, Errol Naidoo, has admitted to being mentee for the American Christian Right Family Research Council. City Hall argues that homosexuality is “harmful to society at large” and should not be protected by politics. Naidoo has also been associated with the World Congress of Familiesa US-led Christian right-wing organization.
Our research shows that the organizations of the Christian right of EE. grown up their networks in African countries. they have invested millions of dollars in anti-LGBTIQ+ campaigns in Africa and elsewhere. They also provide “mentoring” to establish organizations and campaigns such as stop CSE.
A global trend
Campaigning against the department’s guidelines for safer learning spaces reflects a broader trend. Far-right actors are using child protection rhetoric to fabricate moral panic. Making it “about children” allows anti-gender groups to air their prejudices in public. East tactic It has also been observed in Europe and Latin America.
Our research has found that far-right attitudes towards LGBTIQ+ people are becoming part of “normal viewing” in essential Y higher education. Us argue that homophobic and transphobic bullying in these spaces extends the apartheid era discrimination, which was based on Christian ideology.
These narratives claim that LGBTIQ+ students are “deviant,” “rebellious sinners” in need of conversion and civilization. This creates a fear climate and hostility in classrooms and communities in general. Research with teachers. shows that the department’s lack of guidance on creating inclusive curricula and school environments puts the safety of queer and gender diverse students at risk. It also undermines the promise of equality in the South African constitution.
As the global interfaith network has shown, Christianity is not an inherently homophobic or transphobic religion. Those who use religious justifications to promote anti-LGBTIQ+ bigotry do not represent all Christian communities. The weaponization of sexuality and gender differences in schools has consequences for all students whose life chances are threatened by experiences of discrimination, exclusion, and bullying.