European Committee Upholds Pro-Abstinence Sex Education Program

Tue Aug 25, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

STRASBOURG, France, August 25, 2009 ( - The body that polices compliance with the European Social Charter, a human rights document binding on all states within the Council of Europe, has deemed a pro-abstinence sex education program used in many Croatian schools to be acceptable.

Alliance Defense Fund Legal Counsel Roger Kiska represented the organization that produced the curriculum, which provided his briefs to the government of Croatia to aid in its defense of the program, preferred by the vast majority of Croatian families over a radically leftist option.

"Parents should be the ones responsible for making educational choices for their children - not leftist activist groups," said Kriska. "We are pleased that the European Committee for Social Rights has upheld the right for parents to choose an option that does not violate the core religious and moral beliefs of these families.

"Had the groups that filed suit prevailed in their attack on this immensely popular program, the ramifications upon all of Europe and beyond could have been enormous."

One of the articles of the European Social Charter on education and health has been interpreted to mean that all Council of Europe member states must provide mandatory "sexual education" to children, although the nature of the curriculum or the extent to which it is to be taught has not been well defined. Three abortion and feminist groups brought suit against Croatia claiming that a sex education curriculum preferred by most Croatian families violated the charter. The curriculum teaches that abstinence is the only guaranteed means of preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

"The committee not only agreed that Croatia has cultural sovereignty over its moral issues, it also acknowledged the low prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies in Croatia as compared to the rest of Europe," Kiska explained. "The arguments of the groups attacking the program were politically motivated and had no credibility in demonstrating that the curriculum has resulted in any negative effects."

In its decision in International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights v. Croatia, the committee wrote that "it does not consider that the complainant organisation has adequately demonstrated that the education provided cannot reasonably fulfil the aim of raising awareness about sexual and reproductive health to the extent required by Article 11§2 of the Charter….

"The evidence at the Committee's disposal is insufficient to justify a conclusion that the sexual and reproductive health education overall is inadequate under Article 11§2 and in any event it has not been established by the statistical evidence or otherwise that Croatian girls are inordinately exposed to certain health risks."

The government of Croatia has since discontinued offering sex education curriculum itself, though the country is still obligated to the requirements of the charter.

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