Athens, 4 May 2020

Athens, 4 May 2020

PRESS RELEASE

Subject: «The observations of GTSA on the consulted Draft Law of the Ministry of Education: “School upgrading and other provisions”».

The Greek Transgender Support Association (GTSA), is a voluntary non-governmental organization that promotes the
rights and freedoms of trans, gender-diverse and and LGBTI persons, in general, with this press release, submits its proposals on the Draft Law of the Ministry of Education entitled: “School uprgrading and other provisions[1].

Specifically, the GTSA observes the following by article:

Article 1. Skills Laboratories.

This article stipulates that by decision of the Minister of Education, pilot action is introduced in Primary and Secondary education entitled “Skills Laboratories”, which consists of the trial addition of new thematic cycles in Kindergarten and the compulsory schedule of Primary and Secondary School for the purpose enhancing the cultivation of soft skills, life skills and technology and science skills in students. Also, a similar decision defines, among other things, the content of the new thematic cycles and the individual thematic sections of each of them, including the organization and implementation of relevant training and support activities. In this context, we suggest:

A. The integration of thematic cycles related to information and education on democracy and human rights education, in line with the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education[2].

As mentioned in the Charter Introduction: “Education plays an essential role in the promotion of the
core values of the Council of Europe: democracy, human rights and the rule of law, as well as in the prevention of human rights violations. More generally, education is increasingly seen as a defence against the rise of violence, racism, extremism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance.”

In fact, in relation to formal and vocational education, it is emphasized in the Charter: “6. Member states should include education for democratic citizenship and human rights education in the curricula for formal education at pre-primary, primary and secondary school level as well as in general and vocational education and training. Member states should also continue to support, review and update education for democratic citizenship and human rights education in these curricula in order to ensure their relevance and encourage the sustainability of this area.”

B. The integration of thematic circles for the promotion of diversity, and information on issues of sexual education, gender identity and health education, in accordance with the principles of Yogyakarta, of the Charter of the Council of Europe, the relevant provisions of the CM/Rec (2010) 5 of the Committee of Ministers of the Member States of the Council of Europe to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as the directives of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.

In particular, in accordance with paragraph 16 of the Yogyakarta Principles, Member States should[3]: «Β.“Ensure that education is directed to the development of each student’s personality, talents, and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential, and responds to the needs of students of all sexual orientations and gender identities, , D. Ensure that education methods, curricula and resources serve to enhance understanding of and respect for, inter alia, diverse sexual orientations and gender identities including the particular needs of students, their parents and family members related to these grounds.”».

In accordance with Recommendation CM/Rec (2010) 5 of the Committee of Ministers of the Member States of the Council of Europe[4]: “32. Taking into due account the over-riding interests of the child, appropriate measures should be taken to this effect at all levels to promote mutual tolerance and respect in schools, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This should include providing objective information with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity, for instance in school curricula and educational materials, and providing pupils and students with the necessary information, protection and support to enable them to live in accordance with their sexual orientation and gender identity.Furthermore, member states may design and implement school equality and safety policies and action plans and may ensure access to adequate anti-discrimination training or support and teaching aids. Such measures should take into account the rights of parents regarding education of their children.”

Also in accordance with the guidelines of the former Commissioner of the Council of Europe on Human Rights on education, Article 5 states: “Article 5. Promote respect and inclusion for gays, lesbians and trans persons in education and cultivate objective knowledge on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and other educational institutions.”».

Finally, according to the 2019/2933/RSP Report of the European Parliament[5]: «4.stresses the importance of health and sexuality education, in particular for girls and young LGBTI people, who are particularly impacted by inequitable gender norms; stresses that such education must include teaching young people about relationships based on gender equality, consent and mutual respect as a way of preventing and combating gender stereotypes, LGBTI-phobia and gender-based violence”

Therefore, in view of all the above, we consider it necessary to introduce thematic circles to promote diversity, and information on issues of sexual education, gender identities and health education, while we should additionally add that when introducing these two thematic cycles, it is necessary the role and participation of non-governmental organizations, as noted in the Charter of the Council of Europe (see reference 2): «10. Member states should foster the role of non-governmental organizations and youth organizationsς in education for democratic citizenship and human rights education, especially in non-formal education. They should recognize these organizations and their activities as a valued part of the educational system, provide them where possible with the support they need and make full use of the expertise they can contribute to all forms of education”.

Articles 3 and 4. Lessons taught in Primary and Secondary School.

In these articles, the teaching time of the courses in Primary and Secondary School is described.

Of these, it should be noted that: a) the teaching time of the Religious, there is no need to exceed one (1) hour per week, b) the content should be limited to general knowledge of religion in order to serve Article 13 of Constitution (Freedom of religious conscience is inviolable – Proselytism is prohibited), while c) a clear provision of compliance with the Papageorgiou Decision and others against Greece (joint appeals no. 4762/2018 and 6140/2018) of the European Court of Justice of Human Rights (ECHR)[6], is necessary, according to which compulsory participation in religious lessons in Greek schools is contrary to Article 2 of the Additional Protocol to the ECHR (right to education) in conjunction with Article 9 of the ECHR (freedom thought, consciousness and religion).

In this decision, the Court points out that the Greek authorities do not have the right to force individuals to disclose their religious beliefs. However, the current system in Greece for the exemption of children from attending religious lessons requires parents to submit a responsible statement confirming that their children are not Orthodox Christians. This obligation constitutes a disproportionate burden for parents in disclosing information from which they and their children may or may not have specific religious beliefs. In addition, the ECHR notes, such a system could even discourage parents from applying for exemption, especially in the case where families reside in small islands where the majority of the population embraces a particular religion and the risk of public stigma is even higher. Specifically, as stated in the decision of the Court:

«89. In the aforementioned cases, the Court held that freedom to express one’s religious beliefs included a negative aspect, namely the right of a person not to express his/her religion or religious beliefs and not to behave in a manner that would could lead to conclusions about whether or not he/she has such beliefs. State authorities do not have the right to intervene in the realm of individual consciousness and to ascertain the religious beliefs of the individual or to force him/her to disclose his/her beliefs on spiritual matters.”

Based on all the above, and since our country is obliged to comply with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, it is necessary to include an additional provision on this decision.

Article 5. Indication of conduct designation in the qualifications.

This article reiterates the inclusion in the qualifications, including diplomas, certificates of dismissal and other proofs and certificates of studies, of the conduct of secondary school students, which had been abolished through Article 32 of Ministerial Decision, ΥΑ 10645/22 1-2018[7], which stipulated that:

«7. a) The characterization of the behavior of the students of the secondary education has a pedagogical character and aims at identifying behavioral problems and in their better pedagogical treatment in the context of school life. No classification relating to the conduct of these students is stated in the qualifications, such as diplomas, certificates of dismissal and any kind of diplomas and certificates of study. b) Evidence of dismissal and all kinds of diplomas and certificates of study concerning students who have attended secondary education prior to the entry into force of this Act, shall henceforth be issued without stating the classification of conduct.” ».

It should be noted that the indication of conduct in diplomas, certificates of dismissal and certificates of study: a) accompanies and stigmatizes forever, b) avoids any educational character and problem identification in school life and instead acquires a punitive character and disrupts the relationship students – teachers and reduces it to fear and threat, c) violates the personal data of students.

In addition, because there are still negative stereotypes and prejudices about LGBTI people in our country’s schools, there are reasonable concerns about the application of this measure in relation to students’ sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or sex characteristics. On the contrary, according to the principles of Yogyakarta, Principle 16, point G: “Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that discipline in educational institutions is administered in a manner consistent with human dignity, without discrimination or penalty on the basis of a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity, or the expression thereof;” (see reference No. 3).

Taking into account all the above, we consider it necessary to remove Article 5.

Article 33, par. 2. Planning of collective actions.

This provision amends Article 47 of Law 4547/2018, regarding the planning of collective actions. We suggest that the areas included in the school, in addition to the psychological climate, include the proposal and implementation of actions to promote equality and combat stereotypes, discrimination, but also intimidation or prevention of violence for reasons of race, color, national or ethnic origin , genealogical background, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristicsas noted in the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers European Parliament CM/Rec (2010) 5, listed:

“31. Taking into due account the over-riding interests of the child, member states should take appropriate legislative and other measures, addressed to educational staff and pupils, to ensure that the right to education can be effectively enjoyed without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity; this includes, in particular, safeguarding the right of children and youth to education in a safe environment, free from violence, bullying, social exclusion or other forms of discriminatory and degrading treatment related to sexual orientation or gender identity.” (see reference No. 4).

Article 37. Internal regulations for the operation of school units.

This article stipulates that each school unit must, from the school year 2020-2021, have an approved internal operating regulation which addresses the issues related to its operation.

We consider it absolutely necessary in combination with Articles 38 and 39 that follow their commentary, to add equal treatment and prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of race, color, national or ethnic origin, genealogical background, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics, physical condition, or other real situation, as required by the provisions of international organizations such as the Council of Europe, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the CoE, the European Parliament’s report, and the Yogyakarta Principles have already referred.

Articles 38 and 39. Teacher of trust and taking action and combating school bullying.

Article 38, initially, defines the institution of the Teacher of trust, which as mentioned in par. 4: “intervenes, guides and informs students, parents and guardians, in matters of pedagogical issues in areas that concern the school unit, as indicated by the following : crisis management (school bullying, aggression), learning difficulties, behavioral problems, prevention of extreme behaviors (racism, diversity), inclusion and integration, students with special needs, inclinations and talents, transition to other levels, school mobility, counseling and parent groups ”.

Nevertheless, although we believe that any attempt to combat school bullying, racism and promote diversity, inclusion and integration is in a positive direction, all this remains meaningless when everything is referred to (see paragraph 5 and especially Article 39). ) in future decisions of the Minister, and especially when: a) The forms of school bullying or racism and their causes are not mentioned (we consider it absolutely necessary to specifically mention the reasons: characteristics of race, color, national or ethnic origin, genealogical background, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics, physical condition, or other real situation), b) It is not stated what criteria must be met by the person to be assigned to this position, c) The training he/she must have and in which specific areas. Without all of the above, these two articles are empty of content and without any effect.

Above all, it should be noted that the issue of school bullying, especially bullying with a racist homophobic and transphobic background, is particularly serious as LGBTI children and adolescents are often targeted for bullying or violence for sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and sex characteristics , as noted by all international organizations (see references 3, 4 and 5), while suicide rates for the above reasons are very high in members of the LGBTI community[8].

In addition to all the above, Greek Transgender Support Association (GTSA) proposes:

a)the amendment of the legislation for equal treatment (Law 4443/2016), in order to include sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics in the field of education,

b)to take legislative measures to address the widespread dissemination or production or storage of racist material in the field of education in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Europe[9],

c)the addition of special provisions for trans and gender diverse persons who shall be permitted regardless of whether they have legally altered entry in the registry according to their gender identity: (i) the use of the name according to their gender identity, ( ii) their registration according to their gender identity, and (iii) the use of toilets or locker rooms according to their gender identity, in compliance with a relevant decision of the Ombudsman where in case of trans student suggested to the school management, that her will be respected regarding the use of the name she wants in her relationships with her classmates and teachers, women’s clothing preferences, and the use of the women’s toilet,

d) ongoing training programs on issues of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and sex characteristics.

The Greek Transgender Support Association, submits the above proposals, and calls on the Ministry of Education to take into account all of the above observations, in the direction of an education that will promote the human rights of all our fellow human beings, including LGBTI persons.

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

GREEK TRANSGENDER SUPPORT ASSOCIATION

SYNGROU 79, 3rd FLOOR, ATHENS, 11745

Tel. 210.9210697

Office hours: Monday to Friday

09.00-14.00 & 17.00-20.00

http://www.tgender.grhttp://www.transgender-association.gr/

contact@tgender.grtransgender.support.association@gmail.com

—-

[1] Draft Law of the Ministry of Education: “School upgrading and other provisions”. Under consultation draft law. http://www.opengov.gr/ypepth/?p=5133.

[2] Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education.  https://rm.coe.int/16803034e5

[3] The principles of the Yogyakarta (Universal Guide to Human Rights, which summarizes the international legal commitments that all States must abide by.) https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/48244e602.pdf

[4] Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4bc32b292.pdf

[5]Regarding public discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI (2019/2933(RSP)  https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/B-9-2019-0234_EL.html.

[6] Papageorgiou’s decision and others against Greece (joint appeals no. 4762/2018 and 6140/2018) of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), translated into Greek, legal e-lawyer blog: http://elawyer.blogspot.com/2019/11/blog-post.html

[7]Ministerial Decision, 10645 /ΓΔ4/22-1-2018 Registrations, transfers, attendance and issues of organization of school life in secondary schools. http://dide.flo.sch.gr/site/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/DIDEFlorinas-YA_10645_GD4_2018_Me_Oles_Tis_Allages.pdf

[8] See related article:  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-lgbt-teen-suicide/lgbt-youth-at-higher-risk-for-suicide-attempts-idUSKCN1MI1SL ..

[9]Council of Europe, European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), Report on Greece (fifth monitoring cycle), op.cit.,σελ. 11-12.