IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Regrets Ban on Gender Education in Paraguay

December 15, 2017

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern about the decision by Paraguay’s Ministry of Education and Sciences to prohibit the dissemination and use of educational materials referring to “gender theory and/or ideology.” The IACHR notes that this measure, adopted by means of Resolution No. 29.664, represents a setback for the rights of women, people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, and children to receive an education free of stereotypes that are based on ideas of inferiority or subordination.

“These types of measures represent a serious omission of the duty of the State to protect children from all forms of violence and discrimination, in all spheres, and especially in school,” said the Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño. “Many children are victims of various forms of violence and bullying in school, sometimes based on their gender identity and expression and their sexual orientation, real or perceived. According to international treaties ratified by Paraguay, one of the purposes of education is to instill respect for human rights and foster a culture of respect for differences. The school environment itself should reflect these values and the spirit of understanding, tolerance, and equality in the very way it operates.”

The Commission also considers it troubling that the gender perspective is referred to pejoratively as a “gender ideology.” The gender perspective is a critical instrument for combatting discrimination and violence against women and against people with different sexual orientations and gender identities; it is a concept that seeks to raise awareness of the position of structural inequality and subordination of women in relation to men because of gender. The Commission reminds the States of the region that they have an obligation to undertake specific measures to modify social and cultural patterns of heteronormative conduct, including the development of formal and informal educational programs to counteract prejudices, customs, and all other practices that are based on the idea of the inferiority of women or of other groups that have historically suffered discrimination based on their sexual diversity or gender identity.

“Educational programs with a perspective on gender and sexual diversity are essential to eradicate negative stereotypes, combat discrimination, and protect the rights of all persons,” said the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, Commissioner Margarette Macaulay.

It is of concern to the Commission that the measures adopted to prohibit a gender perspective in teaching are in line with a limited and stereotyped interpretation of the concept of family, which fails to recognize existing inter-American standards on the subject and arbitrarily excludes diverse families, such as those formed by same-sex couples, who deserve equal protection under the American Convention. The IACHR notes that this type of interpretation creates an environment conducive to the development of discriminatory speech and attitudes toward LGBTI persons. The Commission urges the States of the region to adopt all measures to recognize the rights of the different types of families within their jurisdictions and to ensure that all their members can fully exercise their human rights.

“The concept of family cannot be limited only to stereotypes based on binary gender constructs—man and woman—or on heteronormative sexual orientation. The concept of family should be understood in its broadest spectrum to ensure recognition of diverse emotional connections and to respect people’s sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to protect the children who belong to these families,” said the President of the IACHR and Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI persons, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren Praeli.

The IACHR reaffirms that education in human rights plays a critical role in addressing and eliminating structural prejudice, historical discrimination, stereotypes, and false ideas about women and about people with diverse sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, education in human rights is essential to uphold and fully promote diversity and the acceptance of different sexual orientations and gender identities.

“The resolution issued by the Ministry of Education of Paraguay is a measure that is incompatible with the international standards regarding the right to education and, specifically, the right to education in human rights,” said the IACHR Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights, Soledad García Muñóz. “Incorporating a gender perspective in all aspects and at every level of education is not only desirable but necessary to ensure that educational systems are effectively oriented toward building egalitarian societies and preventing and eliminating discrimination and violence against women, as well as against LGBTI individuals and communities.”

The IACHR underscores that the right to equality and non-discrimination, established in the American Convention and in other inter-American instruments, demands that States adopt measures of respect and protection toward everyone in their jurisdiction. The right to equality and non-discrimination entails that States must adopt legislative measures, public policies, and other measures that are necessary to guarantee the effective exercise of this right, as stated in the IACHR report Violence against LGBTI Persons. Along these lines, the IACHR urges the Paraguayan State to countermand the gender resolution and ensure that printed and digital educational materials maintain and include educational content that incorporates a gender perspective, thus advancing in the fulfillment of international standards on the principle of equality for all persons and non-tolerance of discrimination based on sex, gender, or sexual orientation.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the respect for and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 208/17