Belgians protest against sexual education programme

19-09-2023

Western Europe

CNE.news

A protestor holds a sign reading "no sexuality before puberty" during a demonstration in front of the parliament of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation to denounce the expected adoption of the Evras decree ("L'education a la vie relationnelle, affective et sexuelle") establishing activities for relational, emotional and sexual education. Some say that the protests mainly come from religious communities. Photo AFP, Eric Lal ERIC LALMAND / Belga / AFP

Last Sunday, about 2,000 Belgians took to the streets in Brussels. They are worried about a new mandatory sex education programme. Earlier, four schools were set on fire, most likely also as a protest.

Parents worry that their children will have to follow lessons in which they learn how to masturbate and watch porn. The so-called Evras (Éducation à la Vie Relationelle, Affective et Sexuelle) decree from the regional authorities recently ordered that French schools must provide pupils with two hours of sexual education in their sixth grade of primary school – students are then aged 11-12 years. Another two hours of the school year must be dedicated to sexual education in the fourth grade of secondary school when students are 15-16 years old. The classes must go about sexuality, relationships and emotions, European Conservative writes.

It is up to the schools how they want to shape these sexual education lessons. Just the mandatory aspect of them is new, Bruzz reports. The Evras guide itself has already existed since 2012, but schools could choose whether they wanted to use it. The decision to change it angers many parents.

Resign

Last Sunday, they took to the streets in Brussels, where they demanded Education Minister Caroline Désir to resign. According to them, the lessons will confront children continually "with a sexuality that is incompatible with their personal development."

Mother Samira was one of the participants. She is convinced that children will receive the mandatory education already when they are four or five, she tells Bruzz. "Isn't that much to you?" she says. In addition, she is critical of the fact that children "learn and get the assignment to touch each other."

Accusations

The Minister of Education strongly denies these accusations. "No, Evras will not teach children how to carry out sexual practices", she said last week. "There will be no lessons in which children are encouraged to change their gender."

Nevertheless, parents are not reassured. Last week, four schools in the town of Charleroi were set on fire, Tijd reported. Even though the fires could be put out quickly and damage was limited, the police and the authorities take the issue very seriously. On the schools, graffiti tags were found that referred to Evras. Therefore, the suspicion is that the fires are also part of the protest against the new decree.

Fake news

The protests come from the religious part of society, both Roman Catholic and Islamic, says Wannes Magits, from the Sensoa organisation, in a Belgian TV programme. Sensoa is an expertise centre specialising in sexual health. "There is a fake news campaign that plays into the emotions of parents", Magits says, as reported by VRT. "There are absurd claims as if students learn to masturbate. Parents now panic."

Veronika Thiers from Pimento, an organisation that provides sexual education to school children, did not expect fierce reactions to the decision of the government. She agrees with Magits that the reasons of the concerned parents are absurd. "It shows why it is so important to inform young people well about issues such as relationships, emotions and sex."

The French authorities are determined to carry their plans through. Thiers finds it a good choice. "Children need reliable information, and school is the perfect place for that."

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