BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Fifty-four said yea, 28 said nay,
and four decided not to commit.
After six days of protest and armed with 97,000-plus
signatures, queers in Seoul, South Korea, got the result they were hoping for: the Seoul Municipal Council's passage of a Students Rights Ordinance with all
clauses intact, including ones that affect the well-being of queer students.
Articles 6, 13, 20 and 28 speak to issues of freedom of
privacy, non-discrimination, and the right for students to access resources — financial and
otherwise — regardless of their sexual orientation and gender
It was the queer-specific clauses that bent the council
out of shape, particularly a few conservative folks on the council's education
committee who singled out sexual orientation and gender identity
for exclusion from the draft bill.
In an interview with Grace Poore posted on the New Civil
Rights Movement site prior to the final vote, Jihye Kim, of Common Action for
Sexual Minority Students in Seoul, said, "The significance of the Seoul
Students Rights Ordinance cannot be overemphasized. Seoul is not just the
capital of Korea but also the centre of everything in my country. A negative
outcome now would send a dangerous message to schools in the rest of the
country. And it would further delay the possibility of a national
anti-discrimination law that would protect LGBT people."
Kim's reaction after the vote: "We fought and we
won. We debated and we taught people. So many of you participated in and
passed along the petition and sent us support statements. The whole process was
more educational than just political."
That South Korean queers have a well-positioned ally in
the person of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has been helpful. Poore notes
a Dec 8 statement Ban Ki-Moon made to a UN panel called Ending Bullying on the Basis of Sexual
Orientation and Gender Identity, where he expressed concern over the bullying
and violence that young people confront because of their presumed sexual
orientation or gender identity.
"But the roots go deeper," Ban Ki-Moon added. "They lie in prevailing harmful attitudes in society at large, sometimes encouraged by divisive public figures and discriminatory laws and practices sanctioned by state authorities."