For about a week in September, two journalists from Taiwan joined swissinfo.ch to report on Switzerland. They were free to report on whatever struck them as interesting and relevant for their readers in Taiwan. Here’s a report by Jason Liu, senior writer for The Report, a crowdfunded media organisation in Taipei. More of his articles will appear in the coming weeks.
In Taiwan, sex is one of the most challenging topics in education. How can we prepare the next generation for pluralistic gender identities and a world that increasingly accepts gender diversity? In Switzerland, volunteers help teachers answer these difficult questions and help students overcome misconceptions.
In the Swiss capital of Bern, primary and secondary schools have a routine activity that one school calls "Sexy Days". The days are meant to prepare children for their own coming of age, and help them grow into adults that are mindful of diversity and don’t discriminate against others based on their sexual orientation.
Teachers invite gay, bisexual and transgender volunteers to meet their students face to face and let them tell their stories. A group of activists called ABQ has organised such meetings now for twenty years.
"It is about two things: one is experiencing what it feels like to be different and the other is the feeling of being in love," said Hélène Fournier, a veterinary student who is the group’s 26-year-old president. Over the past six years, she has often accepted invitations from schools to meet children in primary and secondary schools.
Before and during puberty, children’s discussions of sexual organs often involve laughter and jokes. But during their meetings, that doesn’t happen, said Fournier, because the volunteers show that there’s a serious side to juvenile heckling. They discuss the harm that can come of it.
Conservative pressure mounts in Taiwan
This is in stark contrast with Taiwan, where marriage equality was formally introduced last year, but discrimination remains deeply rooted in some parts of society. In fact, local groups that do work that is similar to ABQ are getting fewer opportunities to work at schools.