Sex education deemed unsuitable for Russian kids

The Guardian, MOSCOW

Sat, Sep 21, 2013 - Page 4

Forget condoms, contraceptive pills and chlamydia, and turn instead to Chekhov, Tolstoy and Gogol. That is the message from Russia’s children’s ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, who has opposed the introduction of sex education to schools and says young Russians can learn everything they need to know about love and sex from Russian literature.

“I am against any kind of sex education among children,” Astakhov said in a television interview. “It is unacceptable to allow things that could corrupt children.”

Despite having one of the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemics, Russia has no sex

education in schools, owing to the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and conservative social forces.

Astakhov wants legislation to ensure sex education does not sneak into classrooms. Instead, he suggests reading the classics.

“The best sex education that exists is Russian literature,” Astakhov said. “In fact, literature in general. Everything is there, about love and about relationships between sexes. Schools should raise children chastely and with an understanding of family values.”

This is not the first time officials have moved to protect the innocence of Russian children. Over the summer, parliament passed a law to ensure children are not subjected to “gay propaganda,” which is defined as any information suggesting homosexuality is normal.

Rights groups said that rather than banning sex education, the exact opposite is needed, and called on the government to allow children to be educated about sex and sexuality.

“All our surveys show that 90 percent of Russians are sexually experienced by the age of 17, and the government wants to deny them the right to be properly informed about their choices,” Tanya Evlampieva from the Russian campaign group Focus-Media said.

“Sex education isn’t just about the act of sex,” she said. “By denying young people access to accurate information, we put them at increased risk of unplanned pregnancies and contracting HIV.”

Russia has more than 1 million people living with HIV, and half of new cases are sexually transmitted.

Astakhov said that in the modern world children might find out about sex from outside school, and suggested that parents should watch over their offspring and be ready to answer questions.

Rather than introduce sex education to schools, he suggested it might be worthwhile to reintroduce the Soviet era subject of “ethics and the psychology of family life” for older teenagers.