Proposals to introduce mandatory Health Education classes in Romanian public schools have stirred heated debate. Despite the fact that there was no mention of a sexual education module included in this subject matter, those who follow the debates suspect that this is the unspoken goal of it. At the beginning of May 2015, there was a draft bill in the Romanian Parliament to introduce mandatory Health Education classes in the core curriculum. It was rejected, because curriculum is designed by the Education Ministry in close cooperation with experts from the Institute of Educational Sciences. There could not be created a precedent in which the Legislative takes over the Executive’s attributions.
Since the Health Minister had spoken before in support of these Health Education classes, last week, 19 Romanian pro-family NGOs have publicly required education and health authorities to consult the parents about sexual education and to educate children about the value of chastity before marriage.
Among the NGOs endorsing this letter was APOR, the Association ‘Parents for the Religion Lesson’, the powerful grassroots movement which this spring successfully upheld the parents’ right to have their children attend religion classes without impeding bureaucracy or other sort of legal hindrance.
This has triggered swift response from other 14 NGOs, spearheaded by the famous Romanian Secularist-Humanist Association (ASUR), the speaking trumpet against religious education in Romanian public schools. ASUR said that an adviser of the Education Minister should resign, because he was a member of APOR and therefore could not be neutral related to all possible educational offers.
Other messages in support of the ministry adviser followed and a real “war” of open letters and declarations ensued.
40 organizations published a statement certifying the professional and moral standard of the ministry adviser.
In an open letter, Studenţi pentru viaţă (“Students for life”) association wrote to the National Education Ministry to remind them that pro-family values and abstinence education are taught in many schools accross the United States, a country much acclaimed as a model by Romanian supporters of comprehensive (contraceptive) sex education. The students wrote that abstinence education programs are financed from the federal US budget with 50-75 million dollars a year, while an official publication of the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently mentioned abstinence and monogamy as a „most efficient way” to be protected against STDs.
Another letter, from ProValori Media pro-life education and information association, emphasized that values shared by the ministry adviser were trustworthy and in accordance with those by which over 90% of Romania’s population abides (proven by the success of APOR in mobilising parents to enroll their children into religious education classes). The same letter drew attention to other CDC alarming data, showing an important increase in the STDs rate for young people aged 15-24, which proves the failure of comprehensive sexual education in Western countries.
Other two responses followed from the adverse party. The actual president of the National Council of High-School Students wrote an article in which he implied that teenagers want to enjoy their sexual rights, not to be taught old-fashioned principles which are not based on scientific evidence. Also, a former president of the same organization wrote another article supporting the same idea and asking for the resignation of the ministry adviser.
In answer to this, there came a testimony from a former member of the National Council of High-School Students, accusing that members of this representative body put pressure on their peers who want to abstain from sex until marriage.
But the anti-abstincence campaign benefited of strong political support through a statement made by the president of the (governing) Social-Democratic Party’s youth organization (TSD), who sent to the media a release which is otherwise not to be found on the TSD official website. This may confirm the assumption that his statement was not endorsed by the whole political structure. The TSD president’s statement said: „The attempt to forbid young people to have sex is inefficient (…) The Left (…) respects morality and spiritual values, (…) including abstinence before marriage, but we do not believe one can generalize such an option in the Romanian society. (…) I don’t believe that sexual education can keep young people at distance from spiritual values”.
The battle is fierce and inconclusive for the moment. But the response from “the pro-family league” has been unexpectedly strong. Besides the offcial letters from NGOs in support of abstinence education, in support of family values and chastity before marriage, there were blog posts, individual letters from parents or simple citizens and, at the moment, a petition is being circulated to gather people’s support for the Education Ministry adviser and everything that he represents. As Romania’s Students for Life wrote in their letter, what is really at stake is whether a public servant will ever dare again to support pro-family values.