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U.N. says bullies target physical appearance, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation

Children at a displaced camp.
UN Photo/Sophia Paris

NEW YORK – Nearly a quarter of a billion children and young people world-wide are bullied each year, according to a report released last week by the United Nations educational and cultural agency, which found that bullies like to pick on children because of their looks, have ethnic or cultural differences, or due to gender or sexual orientation.

“School violence and bullying is a grave violation of the right to education,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the agency that oversaw the report and co-organized an international symposium on the subject now underway in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

The report found that all children and adolescents are at risk of school violence and bullying, but bullies target vulnerable factors, such as poverty or social status associated with ethnicity, linguistic or cultural differences, migration or displacement. Children who were disabled or looked different, such as being overweight or underweight, were also a prime target for bullying.

Young people whose sexual orientation, gender identity or expression does not conform to traditional gender norms are also at increased risk of school violence and bullying, the UN agency reported.

An estimated 246 million children and adolescents experience school violence and bullying in some form every year harming the physical health and emotional well-being of the child.

Among other aspects, the authors looked at where school violence and bullying occurs. For example, physical aggression is more frequent in primary school, whereas cyberbullying takes place more in middle through secondary school.

The report was presented at the International Symposium on School Violence and Bullying: From Evidence to Action, co-organized by UNESCO and the Institute of School Violence Prevention at Ewha Womans University.

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