Jan 142016

Unknown-6Under Pressure: The Regulation of Sexualities in South African Secondary Schools’, by Professor Deevia Bhana, was released in February, 2015.

Professor Bhana has looked into the teaching/discussion of homosexuality in South African schools.  Basically, the professor feels that the topic is ignored by teachers for religious reasons or many feel they do not have the proper teaching tools.  And, of course, there is always the backlash from parents.   At the same time, during a fifteen year time frame, 30 lesbians have been brutally murdered in what often is a ‘corrective rape’ gang session.  Torture is also added – these lesbians have had their throats slit, eyes removed, a water hose pumped into their stomach and vaginal mutilation.  There is definitely a need for education (and I have not mentioned young boys who are gang raped).

First Comprehensive Study of its Kind 

 Professor Deevia Bhana, has launched the first comprehensive study of its kind, drawing on surveys of learners and teachers and focus group interviews with learners, teachers, school management teams and parents.

The study is a project of GALA, Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action.   It is a move to educate both teachers and students on the scientific study of homosexuality and the need to stop the victimization of gays and lesbians in the school system.    I am not sure if Professor Bhana is aware of the Gay Straight Alliance in schools in North America.  Informed straight students with good hearts meet with LGBT students and offer protection and support.

Professor Bhana’s surveys and interviews questioned participants broadly on their attitude towards homosexuality, including whether homosexual learners should be allowed at the school, whether a teacher or school manager would support homosexual learners, and whether a homosexual learner should be able to speak openly about his or her sexuality.

Staggering Ignorance

The results reveal ongoing ignorance and misinformation about homosexuality. More than a few learners were quoted as fearing exposure to homosexual peers due to the belief that homosexuality is contagious, as per this learner: “Listen, if you [are] around moffies the whole day, [if] you grow up in an environment of moffies, you gonna be a moffie, because you think to yourself this is the way I should be.”

A common belief in rural, predominantly African schools was that gay people have lots of money. Also in rural schools, gay and lesbian pupils were linked to “evil spirits” by some pupils. Despite the fact that most people infected with HIV in South Africa are heterosexual, this message has apparently not penetrated – with homosexuals also still viewed as vectors of disease.

A number of learners across schools proposed that there should exist separate schools and shops for gay people, although this was sometimes framed as stemming from a desire to protect them rather than isolate them.

Professor Bhana writes: “Not one learner was aware of a school policy or guideline that could assist and support a learner coming out or that speaks to tolerance and acceptance of sexual diversity.”

Professor Bhana found that although overt discrimination against gay learners might be officially frowned upon, a culture of “compulsory heterosexuality” generally prevails at South African schools. Boys were expected to adhere to a particularly constrictive view of what constituted “masculine” behavior, with any deviation from this – not liking rugby, being “quiet”, etc. – being read and condemned as potential markers of homosexuality.

‘Homophobia,’ writes Professor Bhana, “is used to shore up expressions of masculinity”.

One boy wrote on his survey: “I don’t like homosexuals in schools because if the homosexual is a boy and I go to the toilet, what if the homosexual gets horny and tries to tackle me in the toilet? If a homosexual tries to rape me I will cut his penis off and flush it in the toilet. If he thinks he is going to break my virginity he is wrong because I broke it when I was 12. I love pussy a lot.”

Where do such ideas come from?

Professor Bhana’s research found, encouragingly, that “teachers at all schools indicated an awareness of the legal protections for same-sex relations”, but it was also not uncommon for teachers to “position equality as something forced upon them by a government sympathetic to equal rights”.

Comments made by teachers when asked how they would deal with gay learners suggested a view of homosexual lives as incomprehensible and alien.  (Well, then – research the topic, paula).

“When it comes to practice, I for one don’t want to deal with the homosexual because I don’t know how he feels, how she feels,” one teacher said.  (They have all the feelings and emotions as straight kids, paula)

There was a tendency to assume that Life Orientation teachers should shoulder the burden of dealing with such issues, while also noting that the Life Orientation guidelines do not specifically mention homosexuality. (The original writing committee having “Christian” members, paula).

Among school management teams, Bhana writes that homosexuality was sometimes framed as a behavioural issue – “incidences of homosexuality that were brought to the office” – rather than an issue of pastoral care or basic rights. (Look up Psychiatric and Psychological Institutions -world wide and learn that homosexuality is NOT a choice or a learned behaviour – paula)

Some schools claimed, essentially, that because they had no gay learners, the issue did not arise. “The school managers’ claim that they have not encountered lesbian or gay learners brings to light a crucial paradox regarding homosexuality in schools,” writes Bhana. “Without strong policies and support mechanisms, learners are unlikely to publicly acknowledge their sexuality; without openly homosexual learners, many schools are unlikely to consider sexual diversity an issue of importance.”

(Ah, that would be the teachers, who like ostriches – have their heads in the sand, paula).

Parents at formerly white urban schools seemed to feel it was pointless not teaching their children about homosexuality when its portrayal was now so prevalent on TV, though this did not mean that they necessarily embraced the idea enthusiastically. One parent suggested such discussions should take place only from Grade 11. (Well, girls are getting raped  or having sex -and becoming pregnant not at Grade 11 but at 11 years old – paula).

Another parent said: “We wouldn’t want a lesbian or a gay to teach about it because they will, you know, encourage it.”   (I’d like to sit this parent down and try to encourage her to be gay! LOL paula)

Males Have Problems with Accepting Gays

Professor Bhana’s research found anxiety amongst male learners in terms of accepting homosexual peers.     It is also a matter of peer pressure.  If a student, let’s name him Fred, is kind and tolerant to a gay student, then Fred must also be gay! (paula’s comment).  Female learners called for acceptance and tolerance.  Male students saw gay males as threatening and predatory.

Teachers Come Through

Professor Bhana states that over 80% of teachers indicated that they did not have a problem with teaching homosexual learners.  And 40% stated they needed learning materials.  Going to workshops on the topic provided guidance and teachers reported being better prepared.

Homophobia and Misogyny Linked

paula concluding:  I am not surprised that research after research shows that boys who have been raised with misogynistic fathers – often demonstrating violence towards the mother of the family, will grow up to treat women as less than equal.   It is a macho mentality and adding homosexuality into the mix further strengthens the macho ignorance.  This is detrimental to girls – who have misogynistic male school mates – and its a double blow if they refuse male advances due to homosexuality.  South Africa must stop the murdering of gays and lesbians.  Over the Christmas holidays, 2015 – another lesbian was murdered – her eyes torn out – her vagina ripped and her body burned.  The sooner education and a stricter law is enforced – the sooner precious lives are saved.


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