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LISTEN | LGBTQIA+ community calls for progressive school uniform guidelines

06 May 2022 - 15:48 By Demi Buzo
The Commission for Gender Equality says the issue is not just about school uniforms but it is about the right to dignity, non-discrimination and equality of treatment for all school pupils. File image.
The Commission for Gender Equality says the issue is not just about school uniforms but it is about the right to dignity, non-discrimination and equality of treatment for all school pupils. File image.
Image: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart

The need for school uniform guidelines in SA to be more progressive and inclusive of LGBTQIA+ pupils has garnered much attention.

The current uniform policies are draft guidelines which allow departments and schools at a provincial level to interpret them in the way they see fit, which can be problematic if non-discriminatory guidelines are included.  

“The issue of school uniforms, as the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), we understand as a broad concern. It's not just about school uniforms, but about the right to dignity, to non-discrimination, to equality of treatment and the right to education for those children who have different gender expressions,” says CGE commissioner Busisiwe Deyi.  

The CGE says the national uniform guidelines are lacking in recognising the need for children to be able to express themselves regardless of their gender identity. According to Deyi, the commission is developing a paper that seeks to redress the uniform guidelines through recommendations to the department of education.

LISTEN HERE: 

As the calls for school uniform policies grow, there are equal concerns that allowing such amendments may lead to “othering” and bullying of queer learners. Deyi says bullying is already a concern that shouldn’t prevent schools from being more inclusive.  

A pupil who has benefited from the implementation of progressive uniform policies is nonbinary grade 8 pupil Aeron Andrews who attends a co-ed school in Cape Town. Aeron says one of the “main aspects” of these progressive policies is being able to make your own choice. 

According to grade 8 transgender Christopher James Hinde, also known as CJ, who also attends a co-ed school in Cape Town where progressive uniform policies have been implemented, schools should be more accepting of calls to change their uniform policies because “change is going to come”.

CJ suggests that schools consult stakeholders, including parents and pupils when deciding to amend their uniform policies.

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