15 Dec 2010

LGBT groups in Pingtung, Taiwan call for greater awareness and gay-affirmative support in schools

Organisers say a recent double suicide case involving two lesbian students and another which occurred 16 years ago highlight the inadequacies of Taiwan’s gender diversity education, and calls on the government to address the issue not just through legislation or school-based policies but public education campaigns.

More than 100 members of a dozen LGBT groups across Taiwan held a march through the main streets of the southern city of Pingtung for the first time on Monday afternoon to launch a new campaign titled Pingtung LGBTs Live On [屏東同志活下去].The march was in response to the double suicides of two female students in the city two weeks ago. According to media reports, the pair left a note saying they were in love but was not accepted by their families, and so decided to end their lives.

The statement from the organisers of the march recalled that in 1994, the news of a young lesbian couple from the prestigious First Taipei Girls High School, who killed themselves in a small hotel in Yilan County, made the headlines. The pair wrote in their suicide letter that the nature of this society did not suit them and thought their lives to be negligible.

Organisers say the two cases, which have occurred 16 years apart, highlight the inadequacy of Taiwan’s gender diversity education, and the disparity of social support systems available in urban and rural areas.

The Pingtung LGBTs Live On campaign and march was organised by Taiwan Gender Equality Education Association (台灣性別平等教育協會), Gender/Sexuality Rights Association in Taiwan (台灣性別人權協會), Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線協會) and its sister organisation 968 which operates in Kaohsiung, Taiwan Pride Parade Alliance (台灣同志遊行聯盟), All My Gay and Gingin’s bookstore; and supported by the Taiwan Love and Hope Association (台灣愛之希望協會), Sunshine Queer Centre (陽光酷兒中心) among others.

The group marched silently from Pingtung Railway Station to Pingtung County government office to symbolise the lack of support LBGT and questioning students encounter at home in schools and in school despite the territory’s Gender Equality Education Act (性別平等教育法). The Act which was implemented in 2004 stipulates that schools should provide an environment where gender and sexuality issues can be discussed without bias. Organisers of the march also called on the government and education department to not remain silent over LGBT teen suicide issues.

Activists who spoke at the rally say that despite the implementation of Gender Equality Education Act six years ago, the government has not devoted sufficient attention and resources to provide relevant and adequate support to LGBT students in schools. They also urged the government to act quickly to address the issue not just through legislation or school-based policies but public education campaigns.

A local education official addressing the rally was quoted by Taiwan Public Television Service as saying that his department acknowledges that on their part, more can be done for LGBT students.