Van Bijsterveldt meets gay rights activist in Poland

Marja van Bijsterveldt, Minister of Education, Culture and Science, who is currently visiting Poland to attend a conference of EU education ministers, met for talks with the prominent gay rights activist Kaja Zurawek on 11 October – Coming Out Day 2011. 

Through her organisation Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (KPH), Ms Zurawek is campaigning for the acceptance of homosexuality in Poland. By meeting with her, the education minister is drawing attention to the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in many places in Europe.

Stamp out homophobia

The meeting made a great impression on the minister. She commented: ‘I was appalled to hear how difficult it is for many young gay people to come out, in Poland as elsewhere. We must do everything we can to ensure that boys and girls all over Europe can be themselves, whatever their sexuality. As minister responsible for education and gender equality, I want to use this Coming Out Day to urge my European colleagues to do all they can to stamp out homophobia.’

Homophobic bullying

Last week the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, reported that in schools across Europe, young people are being harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and that homophobic bullying is an everyday reality in the lives of many schoolchildren.

Coming Out Day

Coming Out Day is celebrated throughout the EU every year on 11 October. There is always a special focus on schools, because a safe and tolerant school environment is vital for young homosexuals. This is the age when young people find out who they are – that is why Coming Out Day focuses on all the lesbian girls, gay boys, bisexual and transgender pupils who have the courage to come out at school. School should be a community of values where there is room and respect for all young people, irrespective of their orientation.

Cooperating gay rights organisations

Eleven European countries – Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – have decided to step up cooperation between their gay rights organisations. COC, the Dutch gay rights organisation, is working closely with its Polish counterpart, KPH.