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Romanian senators reject law proposal for a compulsory Sexuality Education curriculum in schools

Romanian senators voted against transforming the currently optional subject “Education for Health” (aka Sexuality Education) into a compulsory graded course. The upper chamber of the Parliament supposedly rejected the law because of its incompatibility with the current law of Education. The Romanian law of Education states that curriculum changes can only be implemented by the Ministry of Education and these changes cannot be introduced and adopted directly by the Parliament.

On the other hand, the representatives of the Ministry of Education are neither supportive of the idea of transforming sexuality education into a compulsory subject motivating that this change could overload the already crowded curriculum. Other voices accuse MPs of backing out because of fears of upsetting the Romanian Orthodox Church, still a powerful institution in today's Romanian politics.

“Education for Health” is an optional subject implemented in some Romanian schools as early as 2004. The subject provides general information about hygiene and health tips starting from the first grade and detailed information about sexuality, STDs, hygiene and pregnancy prevention as early as the 7th grade. Sexuality education is partially covered by other compulsory subjects such as Biology or in some cases the Homeroom Class.

In Romania curriculum changes are decided by the Ministry of Education. There is no previous record of Parliament getting involved in major curriculum changes. Even if some official sources claim that the national education law may be soon revised, there is no guarantee that in the next months Sexuality Education will be put back on the ministerial agenda.

Source: Adevarul.ro

ASTRA Youth intervention at the Follow-up&Review Post-2015 IGN Session

ASTRA Youth member Medea Khmelidze made an intervention on behalf of Youth Leadership Working Group and as Women's Major Group member, at the Interactive Dialogue with Major Groups and other Stakeholders on the 20th May 2015 during the Follow-up&Review Post-2015 Intergovernmental Session.

She reminded that a transformative Post-2015 agenda must be built on human rights principles and recognize&adress SRHR. She called all member states to ensure meaningful civil society and youth participation at all stages of policy making, implementation and monitoring cycles.
‪#‎InterGov2015‬ ‪#‎SRHR4all‬

Read her statement here and watch her intervention at: http://webtv.un.org/…/5th-meeting-intergovern…/4247871630001
(from 2:13:45)

ASTRA Youth article in the IDAHOT Watchdog

In celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on 17th May, the Youth Coalition announced the launch of the 2015 edition of the IDAHOT Watchdog.

ASTRA Youth is proud to have its article included in this year's Watchdog: 'This world cannot handle my true colors”. Challenges faced by LGBTQ youth across Central and Eastern Europe & the Balkans'.

The article is accessible below and in the Watchdog here. Share it widely among your networks!

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“This world cannot handle my true colors”: Challenges faced by LGBTQ youth across Central and Eastern Europe & the Balkans

 “This world is not for me, this world cannot handle my true colors. Goodbye”. These were the last words of Isa Shakhmarli, Azerbaijani LGBT activist (20 years old) who committed suicide due to being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation1. Eylül Cansın, a 23-year-old transgender Turkish girl took her own life in early January 2015, leaving a suicide note sharing her traumatic experience of transphobia: “[People] They impeded with me many times; they made me suffer a lot”2. Isa and Eylül’s stories are two among many describing the tragic consequences of homophobia and transphobia, many of which are hidden, surrounded with silence and taboo, taking place daily at schools, homes and reinforced through homophobic and transphobic laws.

Negative societal attitudes and public discourse towards people of diverse sexual and gender identities and expressions still prevail in the region, and what is worse, are reinforced in laws, e.g. the banning of “homosexual propaganda” (Russia and Lithuania), or denying marriage equality by defining marriage as solely a union between a man and a woman (all countries of the region with the exception of Slovenia). When LGBTQ activists advocate for recognition of their human rights, they’re opposed with the attitudes emphasizing protection of traditional values, relationships and family models, which strengthen stereotypes and support patriarchal views. This homophobic and transphobic approach negatively influences the health and lives of LGBTQ youth, hinders the realization of their human rights and leaves them vulnerable to discrimination and violence, leading to exclusion, low self-esteem, poor mental health, and in some cases, suicide.

Young LGBTQ people face discrimination and stigma from their earliest years, in everyday life and at an institutional level. One of the primary institutions that should play a role in promoting human rights and anti-discrimination attitudes are schools. Unfortunately, sexuality education, including anti-discrimination education, remains an issue all over the region. In recent years, various initiatives have emerged, trying to deny youth access to sexuality education. Slovakia’s referendum, which fortunately has failed, included a question around allowing children to skip sexuality education classes3. In Poland, the anti-choice initiative aimed to ban sexuality education in schools in order to ‘protect children from depravation of so-called sex educators’4. A Romanian activist who created a youth-friendly sex-education platform called Sex vs. Stork, has experienced an anti-choice boycott of the project, and has been accused of corrupting minors and promoting homosexuality5. Moreover, the programmes of sexuality education in the region are inadequate or non-existing, most often biased, promoting conservative values and disseminating stereotypes regarding sexuality.

One of Polish course books “Preparation for Family Life”, approved by the Ministry of National Education, mentions homosexuality under the subsection dedicated to problems with sexuality and sex crimes6. Additionally, the curricula do not refer to LGBTQ specific needs when discussing sexual and reproductive health issues, thus leaving youth at higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and practicing unsafe sexual behaviours and attitudes. Considering the vast stigma experienced at schools, it comes as no surprise that LGBTQ people decide to hide or disguise their diversity during schooling7, which can further strengthen feelings of alienation and psychological distress.

This lack of evidence-based information on sexual diversity and the dissemination of harmful stereotypes might intensify homophobic and transphobic attitudes thus heightening the risk of violence and hate crimes towards LGBTQ people, as evidenced by the brutal murder of a young gay man after revealing his sexual orientation in Russia8.

Can this vicious circle of homophobia and transphobia be stopped? Implementation of bills supporting LGBTQ rights may provide some optimism (Malta’s GIGESC Act9, marriage equality act in Slovenia), but it seems obvious that efforts leading to change of socio-cultural attitudes must be intensified in order to ensure that LGBTQ adolescents can live and develop in a society where they feel safe and where their diversity is appreciated. 

 

Sources:

 

1. Joseph Patrick McCormick, ‘Leading LGBT activist hangs himself with rainbow flag’, Pink News, 23 Jan 2014, http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/01/23/leading-lgbt-activist-commits-suicide-i-cant-live-in-this-world-any-more/ (accessed 27 March 2015)

2. Kelli Busey, ‘Turkish transgender woman commits suicide “I could not, did not allow !”’, Planet Transgender, 5 Jan 2015, http://planettransgender.com/turkish-transgender-woman-commits-suicide-i-could-not-did-not-allow/ (accessed 30 March 2015)

3. LGBTI Intergroup, ‘Homophobic referendum Slovakia fails over low turnout’, 9 Feb 2015, http://www.lgbt-ep.eu/press-releases/homophobic-referendum-slovakia-fails-over-low-turnout/ (accessed 15 March 2015)

4. ASTRA Youth, ‘Movement against sexuality education in Poland proposes legislative initiative’, 30 July 2014,http://www.astra.org.pl/youth/news/194-movement-against-sexuality-education-in-poland-proposes-legislative-initiative.html (accessed 15 March 2015)

5. A.L.E.G., ‘Cui i-e frică de Festivalul Egalităţii de Gen?’, 23 Sept 2014, http://aleg-romania.eu/cui-i-e-frica-de-festivalul-egalitatii-de-gen/ (accessed 15 March 2015)

6. Ponton Group of Sex Educators, ‘Analysis of sexuality education course books in Poland’, http://ponton.org.pl/sites/ponton/files/analysis_of_sexuality_education_course_books_in_poland_.pdf (accessed 30 March 2015)

7. European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, ‘European Union lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survey 2013’, http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/eu-lgbt-survey-results-at-a-glance_en.pdf (accessed 8 April 2015)

8. Vasudevan Sridharan, ‘Russian Man Tortured and Killed in Volgograd for Being Gay’, 13 May 2013, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/gay-homosexual-russia-moscow-rape-sexual-assault-467162 (accessed 9 April 2015)

9. GIGESC Act - Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act,LGBTI Intergroup, ‘Malta adopts ground-breaking gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics law’, 2 April 2015, http://www.lgbt-ep.eu/press-releases/malta-adopts-ground-breaking-gender-identity-gender-expression-and-sex-characteristics-law/ (accessed 8 April 2015)

 

 

Youth Forum in Georgia- More Strategic investments in Youth and Adolescents

On April 27, 2015 Georgian Parliament’s Gender Equality Council, UNFPA Georgia and European Youth Parliament – Georgia organized the Youth National Forum. Representatives of the Parliament of Georgia, the Government of Georgia, European Youth Parliament, various youth, local and international organizations participated in the event, ASTRA Youth Member organizations Real People Real Vision and HERA XXI among them.

The goal of the Youth National Forum was to advocate for the increased investment in adolescents and youth development and the realization of their rights for ensuring sustainable development of the country. Participants of the Forum had a chance to listen to the presentation regarding the overview of the Youth SRHR conditions in Georgia made by the representative of ASTRA Network, the main challenges address lack of comprehensive sexuality education and access to the youth frilled SRH services in line with the youth and adolescents needs. The main priorities for the implementation of ICPD beyond 2014 programme of action (ICPD Beyond 2014 framework of action) were also presented. During the day several plenary sessions and discussions took place, where participants reviewed possibilities of improving the youth development environment; and present implemented or planned actions in Georgia in this regard.

Recommendations for the youth development and realization of their rights, and national implementation of the ICPD beyond 2014 global priorities were developed during the Forum. The group of Access to SRH services was also lead by ASTRA Youth representative. The Youth National Forum was organized within the framework of UN Joint Programme “To Enhance Gender Equality in Georgia” through generous support of the Swedish Government.

ASTRA Youth welcomes two new members!

ASTRA Youth welcomes two new individual members into the Network: Evdokia Romanova from Russia and Luciana Grosu from Romania

ASTRA Youth has now 16 member organizations from 14 countries and 3 individual members.

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