EU Parliament Opposes RC Abstinence Programme for Croatia

Curriculum linked to Natural Family Planning Center of Washington D.C.

News from Croatia:

The European Parliament on Tuesday slammed a proposed conservative, Church-backed sex education program in Croatia, saying it encouraged discrimination.

In a letter sent to top Croatian officials, the EU parliament deputies voiced “concern regarding the potential implementation … of a reproductive health and sexual curriculum put forward by the GROZD Association” of parents.

The program “supplies medically inaccurate and incomplete information about sexual and reproductive health and family planning as well as about available and legal contraceptive methods,” read the letter seen by AFP…

The curriculum has been approved for Croatian schools by the education ministry, and agreement from the health ministry is pending. Javno has further details:

The letter says that the programme is discriminating and stigmatising towards certain groups such as same gander communities. The module on human sexuality of the GROZD association not only provides medically incorrect information, but also contains sexual/gender prejudices and negative stands towards homosexuality and is inconsistent with the Croatian Constitution and legislature that bans such forms of discrimination.

…The programme of the GROZD association, according to them, is founded on a negative attitude towards sexuality and distorted information on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases, and promotes prejudices about genders, sexual orientation, marriage, family and pregnancy…The opinion is based on an analysis of the GROZD association’s programme by the Reproductive Rights Centre from New York.

The controversy has actually been brewing for a while; ILGA Europe reported last year:

On 19th December 2005, the Ministry of Science, Education and Sport elected the Committee for the Health Education, with tasks of preparing a public invitation for the creation of programmes of health education for primary and secondary schools, giving opinions on the programmes and giving its recommendations to the minister. The final deadline for the completion of these tasks was 15th May 2006.

…After headlines in the media that the Ministry had already adopted experimental programmes, on 24th May 2006 minister Dragan Primorac publicly stated that the Ministry at that point had not considered health education programme proposals. However, the Team for Legal Changes and the Women’s Network expressed concern because it was stated in the media that the relevant Ministry would adopt the programme of the GROZD association.

…The author of the GROZD programmes is Mr Ladislav Ilèiæ, also vice-president of the Teen STAR association and the author of the Teen STAR sexual education program, which the Ombudswoman for Children declared unconstitutional and contrary to national legislation and the Convention on the Rights of a Child.

However, some opponents of the programme seem to have responded rather excessively, if this detail is correct:

…Ms Kristina Pavloviæ, president of the Teen STAR association and Mr Ladislav Ilèiæ, vice-president of the association are under criminal proceedings under suspicion of committing the criminal offence of Racial or other discrimination by violating the right of a child.

Further complaints were made in January:

The CESI Association called met on January 11, 2007, to present its concern over the decision of the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports to approve the use of the experimental curriculum in health education prepared by the GROZD Association, in ten schools in Croatia. The GROZD programme awaits the approval by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

…GROZD’s programme, in the sections covering human sexuality, promotes extremely conservative, faith based morality. Thus, it presents masturbation as “turning inwards to one’s self”, while contraception is judged as preventing a complete intercourse and that none of the recognized means of prophylactics is safe enough. The sexual intercourse is defined exclusively as a relationship between members of the two opposed sexes, treating homosexuality as unnatural abomination. Finally, the programme states that divorces result from inability to experience true love.

The participants in the meeting founded the Stop to Risky Sexual Education Civic coalition.

GROZD (Civic Organising for Democracy) appears to be a civic organization that operates in Croatia and Bosnia-Hertzogovena; Teen Star (“Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility”), meanwhile, is run by Dr. Hanna Klaus under the auspices of the Natural Family Planning Center of Washington D.C. It operates in several European countries, as well as South Korea. A report here describes Dr Klaus’s approach:

A soft-spoken gynaecologist and member of the Medical Missionary Sisters, Dr Hanna Klaus has chosen to adopt a different approach to the problem, addressing the issue of unplanned pregnancies at its very heart.

Dr Klaus designed the program to help empower young people by giving them a personal understanding and experience of fertility through familiarity with fertile symptoms as well as “concrete ways of responding to the corresponding emotional changes and pressures” they face.

Dr Klaus says that teenagers deserve more than a fire and brimstone message of premarital sex leading to unplanned pregnancies and STIs. If they don’t understand their sexuality, neither will telling them to “save themselves for marriage” be successful in many if not the majority of cases. “Neither the provision of contraception nor the exhortation to preserve chastity serves adolescents’ need to integrate their now-present biological capacity to procreate into their operational self-concepts,” she believes.

She insists that the Teen STAR program is not merely a way to teach teenagers how to avoid pregnancy. The statistics for the program corroborate this claim with over 90 percent of female and male virgins remaining abstinent while 30-65 percent of sexually active students stopped engaging in premarital sex during the year-long Teen STAR program.

This indicates that teenagers are ready to respond maturely when presented with appropriate content. They do not need sexually explicit information forced down their throats to realise that their sexual activity has not only physical, but emotional and psychological impacts on themselves and those with whom they associate.

A sociology MA thesis by Kimberley Ann Wood has further discussion here.

(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog)

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