Mamelodi school agrees to LGBTI-inclusive uniform policy


LGBTI+ learners continue to face inflexible and discriminatory school uniform policies that have no place in modern South Africa.

Rights group Access Chapter 2 (AC2) recently assisted a group of LGBTI+ learners who were discriminated against by a Gauteng school’s exclusionary uniform rules.

The organisation was approached by an LGBTI+ pupil who claimed they were subjected to stigma and discrimination at the Mamelodi school, including through its code of conduct which outlines the uniform policy.

When AC2’s Legal Unit investigated, it discovered that other learners in the school faced a similar scenario.

“The code of conduct states that males should dress in a certain manner and so should females, which is exclusionary, biased and limited to a certain gender-binary context,” said the organisation in a statement.

This, it asserted, “potentially excludes other learners, particularly transgender identifying learners, gender diverse or gender non-conforming leaners.”

AC2 engaged with the school management team and the parties reached an agreement. The school agreed to put strategies in place to ensure that its environment is safe and inclusive for LGBTI+ identifying individuals, particularly transgender, gender diverse and gender non-binary learners.

AC2 said it will continue to provide the school with ongoing support in its inclusivity efforts. While the organisation described its intervention as a “victory for the community,” it noted that this is not an isolated case.

“We are aware that many other schools across South Africa have not improved their policies to ensure diversity and inclusion for learners who may be transgender, gender diverse or gender non-conforming.”

The issue of exclusionary and rigidly-binary uniform policies has been making headlines for years, most recently with several incidents in Western Cape schools.

Despite constitutional imperatives, some school governing bodies continue to enforce ad-hoc discriminatory policies, often with the support of parents.

In a bid to address these challenges, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) recently called for the Department of Basic Education to implement national LGBTI-inclusive uniform guidelines.

AC2 Legal Unit Manager Keneilwe Zulu said the organisation fully supports the CGE’s proposal. “We also believe that the policy should standardise uniform framework at the national level – it can’t be left to the school. The policy needs to be open and must set legal precedence.”

Zulu urged other schools to follow the Mamelodi school’s example “to swiftly address and strengthen policies that are inclusive as a way of making our schools safe spaces for all, including LGBTI+ learners.”

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