Centre for Civic Education (CCE), from February to April, organized eleven workshops for high school students on “Suppression and prevention of violence against LGBT persons“, within the project NO to Discrimination – YES to Diversity! implemented with the support of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights of the Government of Montenegro. Previously, through this project were implemented and presented findings of the survey of public opinion about LGBT persons.
During February, March and April, the project team visited ten high schools in eight Montenegrin municipalities, in the Northern, Central and Southern regions, talking to high school students about the position of LGBT persons in Montenegro, challenges they face and violence they suffer due to different sexual orientation. Furthermore, LGBT human rights activists, through the workshop method of “Living Libraries”, discussed with high school students how verbal and physical violence affects LGBT persons, how it arises, what are its manifestations and consequences, how to recognize it and to take an active stance in fight against this violence through peer education, then about the mechanisms of protection and reporting of specific cases, but also about the general position of LGBT persons in Montenegro. The “Live Library” method enabled high school students to find out in direct conversation with LGBT activists everything they were interested in about the gravity of the problems that LGBT community faces, to enlight certain prejudices they have, but also to find out how LGBT persons in Montenegro live and how they deal with misunderstanding of the environment.
Jovan Ulicevic, Executive Director of the Association SPEKTRA, trans activist and lecturer at workshops, assesses “that the educational system is one of the key areas in which we should talk about peer violence against LGBTI persons, but also generally about sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex characteristics, which is not the case as clearly visible though workshops.“ Ulicevic said that he noticed that the pupils in the Capital City Podgorica demonstrate significantly higher level of knowledge about the LGBTI human rights, and adds that this is an indication that the intensive work on raising awareness in the northern and coastal cities of Montenegro is necessary. „In general, the education system in Montenegro is not at an enviable level, but exactly discussion about human rights of marginalized groups, indicates how each individual can contribute to prevention of peer violence and understanding of LGBT persons“, he concluded.
Hana Konatar, Community Building Coordinator in the Association SPEKTRA, trans activist and lecturer at workshops, is surprised by the openness of high school students, most of whom had never met outed LGBT person, to be directly informed about LGBT themes. „Although they are very willing to hear something new and change their attitudes, most of them were shocked by what LGBT persons experience on daily basis. Although aware of the existence of persons with different sexual orientation beside heterosexual, they did not have developed awareness of the difficulties that we encounter in our family, school, on the street, in achieving fundamental rights “, Konatar stated. She is happy that she had the opportunity to talk to young people „who needed only the other side of the coin for better understanding of LGBT persons, because they are mostly surrounded by unsustainable attitudes both by the media, peers, professors and by the family“, concluded Konatar.
The CCE project team, in direct contact with young people in ten Montenegrin high schools during eleven conducted workshops, witnessed different attitudes towards LGBT rights – ranging from negative, rooted in tradition of rejection of all sexual and gender differences, whose awareness raising requires more work, to those positive and affirmative that encourage not only human rights activism but also LGBT community in Montenegro that there is space to change attitudes towards LGBT persons from exclusion to acceptance and respect.
CCE team, with LGBT activists, visited eight Montenegrin municipalities, and ten secondary schools, as follows: Economics Secondary School in Bar, Secondary Mixed School “Ivan Goran Kovačić” in Herceg Novi, Gymnasium in Kotor (where due to the great interest of pupils and teacher in charge were held two workshops), Gymnasium “Panto Mališić” in Berane, Gymnasium “Tanasije Pejatović” in Pljevlja, Gymnasium „Petar I Petrović Njegos“ in Danilovgrad, Gymnasium in Cetinje, Construction – Geodesy Secondary School “Eng. Marko Radevic”, Secondary School “Spasoje Raspopovic” and Gymnasium “Slobodan Skerovic” in Podgorica. The workshops were attended and actively participated by 297 pupils from first to fourth grade of high school.
Zeljka Cetkovic, Project Coordinator