A pro-abstinence sex education programme used in many Croatian schools is legally acceptable, the European Committee for Social Rights (ECSR) has found.
Croatia’s curriculum teaches children that abstinence is the only guaranteed means of preventing sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
As a Council of Europe (CoE) member, Croatia must comply with the provisions of the European Social Charter, which requires CoE countries to provide children with mandatory “sexual education,” but does not clearly define how this should be achieved.
Three abortion and feminist groups filed a suit against the Croatian government in 2007, alleging that the country’s sex education curriculum violates the charter by failing to offer “comprehensive or adequate sexual and reproductive health education for children and young people”.
“Key topics such as the use of effective contraception are often deliberately excluded and in some respects the information is inaccurate and replete with bias and discrimination,” according to the groups.
Moreover, the Croatian curriculum “focuses on the negative aspects of contraception to the exclusion of any information about its medically proven benefits and advantages,” they alleged.
But the ECSR decided the complainants had not adequately demonstrated that the education provided could not “reasonably fulfil” the aim of raising awareness about sexual and reproductive health “to the extent required” by the European Social Charter.
The committee further concluded that the evidence at its disposal was “insufficient to justify a conclusion that the sexual and reproductive health education overall is inadequate”.
Hailing the decision, Roger Kiska, a legal counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, an alliance of Christian attorneys, said “we are pleased that the European Committee for Social Rights has upheld the right for parents to choose an option that does not violate [their] core religious and moral beliefs”.
“Parents should be the ones responsible for making educational choices for their children – not leftist activist groups,” added Kiska, who represented the organisation which drafted Croatia’s curriculum in the case.
“Had the groups that filed the suit prevailed in their attack on this immensely popular programme, the ramifications upon all of Europe and beyond could have been enormous,” he further declared.