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LGBTQ+ and the Culture of Violence in Education

How schools continue to abandon LGBTQ+ students.

Key points

  • The social taboo and lack of awareness around different sexual orientations begins from the stage of primary socialization.
  • There is not enough emphasis on LGBTQ+ inclusive education policies in schools many different countries.
  • Without inclusive school policies, violence against sexual minorities may result.

“Do they have an extra penis? Do they sell kids? Homosexuality is not natural!”

In 2018, Indian lawmakers revoked the controversial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code by decriminalizing homosexuality in the country. However, questions and common-sensical remarks about the non-heterosexual population in India are still often guided by extreme homophobia, social taboo, and a lack of awareness about different sexual orientations. Despite clear-cut statements by the Indian Psychiatric Society that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, one could easily find homophobia lingering around everyday discourses, movies, and popular Youtube videos in India.

It is important to note here that this rejection and denunciation of non-hetero sexualities are not limited to non-WEIRD (non–Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) countries like India. Social taboo, unacceptance, negative behavior, discrimination, and public shaming are some of the potential reasons for hiding one’s sexuality in WEIRD countries like the United States, too. As a consequence, the exact population of LGBTQ+ persons is still unknown, and there are substantial variations in the prevalence estimates of the LGBTQ+ population in India as well as the United States.

According to a recent LGBTQ+ Pride global online survey carried out across 27 countries, nearly 3 percent of respondents identified as being homosexual, gay, or lesbian, whereas 4 percent identified as bisexual. In addition, 1 percent identified as pansexual or omnisexual. In India, when asked, “What best describes your sexual orientation,” nearly 9 percent identified as bisexual, 3 percent mentioned that they were only attracted to same-sex people, and 17 percent claimed that they were mostly attracted to the same sex. On the other hand, in the United States, nearly 5 percent identified as bisexual, 5 percent said that they were only attracted to same-sex people, and 13 percent claimed that they were mostly attracted to the same sex.

Extreme and Continuing Bullying

Considering the increasing visibility of the LGBTQ+ population in recent years, education becomes one of the most prominent ways of creating awareness and sexual inclusivity among students from a young age. However, various media reports highlight the extreme and continuing bullying against LGBTQ+ persons in the Indian education system (Bhattacharya, 2018; Babbar, 2020). For instance, recently, a young boy from Delhi was continuously bullied and sexually exploited by some boys in his school just because of his effeminate behavior. Despite his multiple complaints to the school faculty, no strict action was taken by the school management, which eventually led him to commit suicide (Mehra, 2022). Furthermore, a 2019 report by UNESCO suggests that 60 percent of LGBTQ+ students face bullying during middle or high school. Forty-three percent have been sexually assaulted, and 33 percent drop out due to continuous bullying in Indian schools.

Sharon McCutcheon/Pexels
Education is one of the prominent ways of creating awareness about the LGBTQ+ population
Source: Sharon McCutcheon/Pexels

Stories of bullying, sexual violence, and the continuous trauma due to one’s sexuality are again not limited to only non-WEIRD countries. Extensive research suggests that students belonging to the LGBTQ+ population are at a much higher risk of violence than non-LGBTQ+ students in the US education system. The rampant bullying and violence against LGBTQ+ students across the world raises the question of whether schools are aware of the blind spots in terms of sexuality and student safety. Do our schools and education system provide enough training to teachers and students to accept and include a multiplicity of students from different sexual orientations?

However, schooling is essential to how one views the world and where primary socialization takes place. The narratives of LGBTQ+ students facing harassment, not only by their peers but also by school authorities, tell how important it is to begin to envision what it would be like to have inclusive education. For this, it is important to take stock of how gender and sexuality are taught in schools. Following that, it is also essential to take into account how this impacts children from the LGBTQ+ community.

 42 North/Pexels
It is important to begin to envision a future with inclusive education.
Source: 42 North/Pexels

Gender in Textbooks

Previous research on social studies textbooks shows how the textbook writing staff consists of significantly fewer women than men, which invariably impacts the mention of male and female illustrations and names used in narratives in the textbook. For instance, the study shows that while talking about the Indian freedom struggle, most of the Indian social science textbooks do not illustrate the journey of female freedom fighters, highlighting how they are looked at as secondary rather than an equal part in shaping history

A study on the representation of gender in Indian textbooks further points out how implicit notions are conveyed through the representation of gender in these books, where not only LGBTQ+ students, even women do not find any significant space. The author put forth data on how men and women are represented through occupational status, symbolizing certain traits that reinforce stereotypes of men and women. The existence of such differences and their impact further highlight how patriarchal norms are reinforced through textbooks, in various forms such as illustrations among others. It has an impact on those who read these textbooks as it shapes implicitly how one understands gender roles and identities.

In India, public and private institutions are subject to the University Grants Commission's Anti-Ragging Regulations 2009, which prohibit homosexual assault after the 12th standard. College-level courses follow the Saksham recommendations for gender workshops, but the school system currently is not governed by any rules that help protect students who are marginalized on the basis of their sexuality. The US has adopted several state laws and antibullying policies: introducing LGBTQ-inclusive education, passing same-sex civil unions, and allowing transgender people to change their legal gender without any medical or state intervention, protection from discrimination under Title IX in educational amendments. However, a report by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) shows how most of these U.S policies and laws are unable to protect the LGBTQ+ student populations. As a result, many LGBTQ+ students continue to remain prone to victimization, conversion therapies, dropout, poor academic performance, shame, and sexual abuse in both WEIRD and non-WEIRD countries.

Considering the high rates of violence, homophobia, and bias against sexual minorities in the education system, it is time our students as well as school management and teachers are made aware of gender pronouns and the need to respect different sexual minorities. An inclusive curriculum and more stories around sexual minorities during the teaching-learning process could be a starting point for making educational institutions more inclusive of sexual minorities.

This post was written by Namrata Shokeen and Shivani Chunekar. Namrata Shokeen is a research author at the Department of Sociology, Monk Prayogshala; Shivani Chunekar is a junior research assistant at the Department of Sociology, Monk Prayogshala.


Babbar, K. (2020, October 19). Homophobic Bullying & Mental Health Outcomes Among People In India. Feminism In India. Retrieved July 6, 2022, from

Bhattacharya, S. S. (2021, July 25). Labelled, bullied, humiliated: What LGBT students in our schools go through. Citizen Matters. Retrieved July 6, 2022, from

Mehra, K. (2022, March 23). A gay student’s suicide in Faridabad terrifies me. Schools are not safe for queer children. ThePrint. Retrieved July 6, 2022, from

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