Education and Skills

Mexico unveils gender-neutral school uniforms policy

Schoolchildren watch the 2010 World Cup opening match between South Africa and Mexico in San Jose June 11, 2010. Costa Rica's Education Minister Leonardo Garnier authorised all schools across the country to have a television in their classrooms to watch the World Cup matches.  REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate (COSTA RICA - Tags: EDUCATION SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP) - GM1E66B1TVS01

“It’s a very simple thing, but it creates a condition of equality, of equity,” Image: REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

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Children who attend state-run schools in Mexico City will no longer have to abide by a gender-specific dress code for their school uniforms, government officials said on Monday.

Claudia Sheinbaum, the Mexican capital’s left-wing mayor, announced the new gender-neutral uniform policy during a press conference at a local school in the city.

“The era when girls had to wear a skirt and boys had to wear trousers has been left behind, I think that’s passed into history,” Sheinbaum said.

“Boys can wear skirts if they want and girls can wear pants if they want.”

The new policy will take effect immediately, the Mexican education ministry later said in a tweet.

Sheinbaum, who took office in December, is only the second woman ever to govern the capital and campaigned on a platform promising improved rights for women and LGBT+ people.

“It’s a very simple thing, but it creates a condition of equality, of equity,” Sheinbaum said of the new dress code.

While children at government-run schools in Mexico are not required to wear uniform by law, the education ministry recommends state schools adopt them.

It previously issued guidelines noting that “just as the skirt is the basic garment of a girl’s daily school uniform, so trousers are for boys”.

Mexico’s Education Minister, Esteban Moctezuma, praised Sheinbaum’s announcement and suggested that other states in the country may now follow suit.

“I’m sure that many state governments will follow the rule of equality and of rights, and of societies which have an enormous respect for one another,” he said.

LGBT+ activists welcomed the move and said it could be particularly positive for trans or gender-nonconforming students who are struggling with their identity.

“It’s going to help a lot for trans children,” Diana Sanchez Barrios, a transgender activist and founder of Prodiana AC, a Mexican LGBT+ rights group, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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“(For) trans boys, they impose everything masculine on you ... and it impacts you psychologically, it becomes a problem. They’re forcing you to use a uniform that you don’t identify with,” she said.

Despite recent progress on LGBT+ rights, Mexico remains a socially conservative, predominantly Catholic country where machismo prevails and gender roles are strictly enforced.

As a result, transgender people often face social stigma and suffer mental health issues.

Three-quarters of trans people surveyed in Mexico City had experienced social rejection because of their gender identity, according to a 2016 study published in The Lancet.

More than 80 percent reported psychological distress during their teenage years.

“Now, any child, no matter his sexual orientation or gender identity, can wear a skirt,” said Temistocles Villanueva, a lawmaker and president of the human rights commission in the Mexico City congress.

"Maybe because he considers himself to be a trans person, or maybe because he simply wanted to see what happens when a boy uses clothes that weren't meant for his gender."

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