Slovakia debates sex education in schools

When it comes to discussing sex, Slovaks may be among Europe's most conservative. About 60% of people claim to be Catholic and this is leading to some very lively discussion over attempts to introduce sexual education into school.

Teenagers don't have enough information about sexuality and birth control. This is what the Slovak Family Planning Association claims as a reason for its initiative to introduce a handbook for sexual education. Such an initiative is, however, not really appreciated by the Catholic Church in Slovakia. The spokesperson for the Slovak Bishops Conference set out the Church's objections.

"We have two major objections to this so called sexual education. The fist one is that this handbook does not comply with the culture of life. That means it doesn't respect life from the natural beginning to natural death. The moral principles presented in this literature are not in accordance with what Christians and also cultural world honors in the area of life's protection. Our second objection is that an organization which does not even belong under the Ministry of Education would flood the schools by their perceptions of sexuality."

The Slovak Family Planning Association believes that the publication was prepared in compliance with internationally acknowledged standards, by associate professors, gynecologists, and teachers. The head of the Association Olga Pietruchova brings the initiative closer.

"We did it because according to our surveys with did among teachers and pupils, we saw that there are no really objective materials in the schools and there is lack of knowledge on many issues which are considered to be a part of the sexuality education in European Union."

What is the main goal of this sexual education and the information campaign you would like to launch?

"Of course our main goal is to inform pupils objectively, according to the newest science knowledge on family planning, it means on contraception, on prevention, on unwanted pregnancy, as well as prevention on sexually transmitted diseases. But also to speak about sexuality as a positive part of human life, which is seen among young people of course as a very important of their lives. We also speak about homosexuality as a normal issue which has to be accepted by society and young people at all. We also speak about gender equality."

When you compare your proposal with for example European standard...?

"We tried it to elaborate it in a way that would be acceptable for majority of our society, which is still much more conservative than for example Netherlands. In Slovakia, not only in sexual education, but in the education system at all, still, it's much more authoritarian system."

It is clear that something has to be done in terms of sexual education, because pupils receive very little relevant information at schools. Media and especially internet has become their primary source on this subject. Both sides - the Slovak Family Planning Association and Catholic Church are now waiting for the ministry to announce its position.