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The position of religious groups regarding the introduction of sex education in schools

On April 3, 2020, the law that introduces compulsory education programs in school units came into force. Law no. 45/3 of April 2020, which amends and supplements Law no. 272/2004 on the protection and promotion of the rights of the child, provides "the systematic organization in school units, at least once a semester, of education programs for life, including sexual education for children, in order to prevent the infection with sexually transmitted diseases and the pregnancy of underage girls".
The usefulness or relevance of such law has been debated several times over the past decade. The adoption of this measure finally took place under the pressure of the civil society, but also due to the proactivity of state authorities regulating this field (see the position of the president of the National Council for Combating Discrimination), amid alarming statistics on the increase of the number of births or abortions among teenage girls. Romania has one of the highest teenage girls abortion rates, but also the highest number of teenage mothers in the entire European Union.
Still, there were voices from civil society, such as those of religious denominations, who opposed the entry into force of such a regulation. Even after the law was passed, the Romanian Orthodox Church issued a press release to argue for the optional nature of these programs. In this sense, based on the interpretation of the Constitution and the Law of Education, it is argued that the State does not have the right to impose an ideological model in the education of children, beyond parental consent and beliefs. It is also affirmed that the main goal of educating children is to train the skills necessary for personal fulfilment and development according to the interests and aspirations of each, and not to connect the minds of students to harmful ideologies. The statement said that, "the compulsory inclusion of children in sex education programs is an attack on their innocence hindering their natural development and marking them for life".
The press release cites studies from other countries that have already introduced sex education in schools, which would have shown that "such an approach to educating children resulted in an earlier start of sex life, with the necessary implications, without any social improvement". It is also emphasized that the education offered to young people in order to better face the challenges of today’s society must at least inform that life has also a spiritual dimension, and that "the identity and the life of the human person are not limited to an exclusively biological or socio-cultural reality".

Addition of May 2020 : Legislation adopted in early April 2020, which introduced compulsory sex education in schools, has been amended (Art. I, para. 10). The amendment to this law provides for the replacement of the term "sex education" with the term "health education". In addition, sex education classes will only take place with the "written consent of the parents or legal guardians of the children".
Following the enactment of the first version of this legislation, the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued communiqués expressing their opposition to sex education programmes.

D 4 May 2020    AGabriel Birsan

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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