Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


Activists laud unisex school uniform call

'A gender-neutral uniform allows everyone to feel comfortable and not be confined by outdated gendered norms,' says LGBTI activist.


The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE’s) call for the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to revisit the existing draft of the national guidelines on school uniforms to include a non-discriminatory principle may show growing resistance to gender stereotypes, according to activists.

Lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activist Aisha Moerane said introducing gender-neutral uniforms for pupils and moving towards unisex uniforms was a way to work on protecting the younger generation from gender-based stereotypes.

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Moerane said when they were growing up, it was compulsory for girls to wear skirts, which affected them mentally because of gender norms which convey the rules assigned to a certain gender, like how to behave in public, what role they play in society and “guidelines” on how to socialise.

“I was unable to bring all of who I was to what I was doing because I felt so awkward, so out of place and I lost my sense of self and identity in the rules that were forced on me,” Moerane said.

They also said having a gender-neutral uniform would enable people to express themselves fully, without any pressure to be or look a certain way, while giving them a sense of freedom, liberation and creativity.

“A gender-neutral uniform allows everyone to feel comfortable and not be confined by outdated gendered norms.”

A parent, Kgomotso More, said it was so important to accommodate children who identified with a different gender to the one they were born into. More said her own children were happier when she started respecting them for who they were.

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The commission said that according to a study by University of KwaZulu-Natal, SA schools were still sites of social and gender discrimination and exclusion, impacting on access to education for LGBTI students.

“The draft national guidelines on school uniforms do not address this issue adequately,” it said.

“The existing draft guidelines reinforce sexist and discriminatory separation of ‘girls and boys’, leaving little room for LGBTI pupils to wear uniforms that fit with their gender expression.”