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COMMENTARY: DepEd’s push for gender-responsive education

(This is the first of a two-part series.)

Late last month, the Department of Education (DepEd) rolled out its newly-developed framework for a gender-responsive basic education or GRBE.

This move came a week after the United States-based Human Rights Watch released a report noting that Filipino lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students remain vulnerable to discrimination and that their respective schools oftentimes do not do enough to be of help to them.

Here are some pertinent features of DepEd’s new mandate, as reported by The Filipino Scribe in a previous post:

“Under DepEd’s new framework on gender-responsive education, the LGBT Pride Month will be celebrated in schools every June. It also calls for the establishment of a VAWC or Violence Against Women and their Children desk in each school.

DepEd likewise mandated the creation of the following in all levels of DepEd governance, from the national down to the school-level: a Complaint or Grievance Committee, a Committee on Decorum and Investigation, and a Child Protection Committee. This is necessary because as HRW pointed out, “Many students were not aware of anti-bullying policies or did not know where to seek help if they were persistently bullied.”

catholic schools lgbt students philippines

DepEd seeks to strengthen protections for LGBT students, but it is likely to meet challenges (Credits: Ef Villanueva of De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde)

For advocates of stronger LGBT rights in the Philippines, this is definitely music to their ears. First of all, it’s a fact that young people try to explore many aspects of themselves, including their sexual side, during puberty. It won’t be surprising to find students who say they discovered their sexual orientation during high school.

And sadly, this is one thing that are sometimes not openly discussed at home – as with other topics related to sex. Given that, the schools have an obligation to step up to fill in the vacuum although it doesn’t always happen for various reasons like the conservative attitudes of teachers and school administrators and the inadequate number of guidance counselors.

Secondly, while it is true that all students can be victimized by school bullying, gay students are more vulnerable to it. How many times have we heard of students being bullied for talking softly or being effeminate or mahinhin? Making things worse, when they try to report this to their parents or teachers, they might even be told that if they only spoke or acted more manly (“Magpakalalake ka kasi!”), then they wouldn’t be bullied. Talk about blaming the victim!

It’s a painful reality that LGBT students often have to deal with many personal issues on their own because no one truly understands what they are going through. This initiative of DepEd is a very good step in the right direction, but it is not likely to happen without serious bumps along the way.

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