Chile: educators stand up against sexism, harassment, abuse and discrimination in education

published 27 June 2018 updated 18 September 2018

Thousands of Chilean educators, students and activists have reaffirmed their support to building a new education system, that is non-sexist and free of violence, abuse and discrimination. Education unionists mobilise to fight gender violence in the classroom

“We strongly support the feminist cause and we want to eradicate all kinds of violence and harassment against women. We are in favor of the mobilisation that has arisen today. The education system is very focused on men and a machismo still very prevalent. That is why there must be a deep and extensive change,” said Hugo Gerter, leadership member of the Colegio de Professores de Chile (CPC), an Education International’s affiliate, after a massive demonstration on 6 June.

The demonstration, the third one since nationwide mobilisations began in May in several cities of the country, was called by the University Coordination (COFEU), the Federation of Students of Chile (CONFECH), which brought together the university federations and secondary students organisations.

Educators joining the action highlighted the importance of creating a non-sexist education, which they see as directly related what happens in the classroom. Teachers are key to engraining gender equality and teaching their students to reject all types of harassment and discrimination.

This march against violence and for a non-sexist education was carried out in the context of multiple feminist takeovers of education campuses throughout the country, putting demands for women's rights at all levels on the forefront of the public debate.

“Teachers are limited by the curriculum, politically and professionally, in addressing the issues of harassment, discrimination and sexist education,” explained CPC Head of Gender and First Director Magdalena Reyes. “As teachers, we will have to generate a discussion on these topics through classes and workshops. As members of an education union with a majority of women members, we must become an active part of the feminist movement currently shaking up Chilean society.”

Precarisation experienced by women leads to gender violence

Reyes noted that all women at some point in their lives, experience situations of abuse, precarisation, invisibility, discrimination or violence because of their gender. The expressions of sexist and patriarchal violence are exercised through different institutions: the family, the education system, in public, at work, etc. This is even more aggravated for women who belong to sexual or ethnic minority, she deplored.

That is why we call on all women, not just students, to take action in all the spheres in which we participate in, fulfilling fundamental tasks for the development of our country, Reyes said.On June 11, she also unveiled a report on gender bias in the Chilean educational system, prepared by the Department of Education of Teachers. This document will serve to generate discussion among teachers across the country to create proposals and practices that will make it possible to move towards a non-sexist education.

“Actively contributing as a trade union to a change the educational paradigm to one that eradicates all sexist bias in the education system is a clear a priority for us,” Reyes underlined.

Initiative establishing a protocol to prevent sexual harassment in higher education

Currently, students' organisations are joining efforts to present an initiative establishing a protocol to prevent sexual harassment in higher education, as well as to propose complaint procedures when these cases are registered within universities.

The CPC has also welcomed the approval by the Chamber of Deputies of the draft agreement modifying the Regulations of the Profession to create a Commission of Women and Gender Equality of a permanent nature, so that it may move towards an action in favour of promoting the defense and promotion of women’s rights, sexual diversity and gender equity.

Also, a proposal on sexual harassment in the academic field that qualifies this behaviour “as a violation of freedom and dignity of the human person, as well as of the principle of equality and non-discrimination” was studied by the parliamentary Commission of Education and Culture.

The proposal goes on to state that “it is the duty of all educational institutions, at all education levels, to actively adopt those measures that are necessary to eradicate sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women, promoting good treatment and equal relationships between gender”.