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School rainbows shine light on LGBT rights


The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), 17 May, coincided with many Thai youngsters returning to school after term break, making it the ideal time to spotlight an issue affecting far too many students in the country -- bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

A groundbreaking study on this issue was conducted by UNESCO Bangkok, Plan International Thailand, and Mahidol University, with funding support from the Swedish International Development Agency and UNAIDS. The study detailed the torment faced by many LGBT students, or those merely perceived as such, in Thai schools. The report was launched during a special event at study Thailand Knowledge Park, with US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney delivering the keynote address.

UNESCO, UNAIDS and community partners brought further attention to this important issue with the "School Rainbow" campaign. Here organizers, teachers and school staff as well as students themselves turned up in the early morning hours of the week leading up to IDAHOT to draw chalk rainbows in front of schools, showing solidarity for LGBT rights and sending a strong message that bullying will not be tolerated.

Thammasat University joined in on the chalking fun, followed by a panel discussion opened by the university's Rainbow All Boy Cheerleaders. A "Rainbow Power" workshop and public rally were also held at the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center on IDAHOT day.

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