In a truly democratic society, there should be no place for any kind of discrimination or violence. Gender education should be considered at all levels, at all annual groups and curricula to improve education in this subject.
GBVH that occurs in educational institutions on a systematic basis has long-term impacts on students’ learning, health, wellbeing, and pathway to employment. We can state that it is a direct violation of every child’s right to a safe, formal, quality education, and occurs in all settings, including schools, universities, technical and vocational education (TVET) colleges, and through online education. GBVH is rooted in the very same gender inequality and discrimination that cause gender gaps in learning. While GBVH in the education sector can affect anyone, for girls, it heightens the risk of unwanted pregnancy, HIV and AIDS, child marriage, and malnutrition. Boys can also suffer from harmful gender norms; social conceptions of masculinity, for example, can fuel child labour, gang violence or disengagement from school. The education sector is, thus, uniquely placed to shape young people’s understanding of gender roles and to address violence. This sector brief focuses on GBVH perpetrated against children and adults in the education sector, also commonly known as school-related GBV. It underlines the need to integrate GBVH issues into wider considerations of violence against children.
Inside the educational environment exists 3 different environments where GBVH may occur:
Between students – Peer violence and bullying are the most prevalent forms of violence in education settings. Globally, boys are more likely to experience physical violence from their peers, while girls are more likely to experience emotional abuse or sexual violence. These risks are also prevalent in adult learning, where there may be similar interactions and power asymmetries. student-on-student bullying based on perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is also widespread. Research in Chile, Mexico, and Peru found that more than 60 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual students had experienced homophobic bullying.
Between teachers and students – Teachers and school administrators are in a position to exploit power imbalances to perpetrate GBVH against students, sometimes in exchange for grades, scholarships, or other benefits, or under threat of punishment. Boys are more often subject to physical punishment, whereas girls are more likely to experience sexual violence or harassment. Thirty-nine percent of school principals (two in five) surveyed in 14 African countries said teacher-pupil sexual harassment had occurred in their primary schools.
Among teachers and staff – Teachers and other educational staff can also experience GBVH at work from students, colleagues, and parents. Research in secondary schools in Swaziland found that teachers often experience sexual harassment from students. The harassment is mostly verbal but sometimes involves students sending pornographic pictures to teachers, or attempts to kiss or hug them. Younger, newly qualified women are particularly at risk of GBVH and this can make it challenging for schools to retain female teachers.
Sources: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 2020