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Germany

Do migrants in Germany need sex education?

Two months after a series of New Year's Eve sex assaults in Cologne, the German government launched a multilingual website to educate migrants about the body and sexuality. But not everyone thinks it's necessary.

In 12 languages, including Arabic, Turkish and Albanian, the "Zanzu: My body in words and images" online portal offers information about Zanzu - my body in words and images website sexuality and health.

Authorities argue that, unlike Germany, many countries don't teach sex education in schools, and many foreigners, including many of the refugees, come from states where sex is a taboo topic.

But the site wasn't created expressly for refugees, and it's by no means a reaction to the incidents in Cologne on New Year's Eve, either, says Christine Winkelmann of the site's makers, Germany's Federal Center for Health Education (BzgA).

Over three years, and in cooperation with the Belgian NGO Sensoa, the German center developed the site as a response to queries from counselors, information centers and doctors dealing with migrants, long before more than a million refugees entered Germany last year.

Online for just three weeks, this website "is actually meant for the specialists, who can make use of the website when counselling their clients and patients on different aspects of sexuality - and point them to Zanzu, too," she told DW.

And with 20,000 visitors per day, it's doing well," Winkelmann says, adding: "Well-founded information is important."

Zanzu takes a detailed look at various aspects of sexual life, both physical and legal.

The site describes pregnancy and family planning, genitalia and sex positions, and gives tips on sexual hygiene and protection, including a cartoon on how to put on a condom. Refugees can turn to Zanzu to find out how the German health system works and where they can find counseling centers in their neighborhood.

'Discreet, direct access'

Talk about timing: The launch of the website comes just weeks after police in Cologne received more than 1,000 complaints of theft, groping, harassment and rape on New Year's Eve. Victims described the perpetrators as North African or Arabic-looking.

Migrants need understandable and relevant information on all sexual and reproductive health issues, Elke Ferner, a parliamentary state secretary at the Health Ministry, explained. She said the site gives refugees "discrete and direct access to knowledge in this area."

Some people wonder, however, how inexperienced the government thinks migrants are, and some felt funds were being misused.

Naïve, or an important service?

Some users were taken aback by the illustrations that show intercourse between men and women of different races.

This user suspects "sleazy racism that presumes refugees are toddlers."

"Have German authorities gone completely mad," wonders commentator Annabel Schunke on the Tichys Einblick website. The newcomers aren't people who haven't learned how to use a condom, the writer says, but people "who haven't been told that women are human beings with equal rights, and that female genital mutilation and rape are forbidden." It's naïve to believe that a few "cute pictograms and integration courses could undo a socialization they have been subjected to their entire lives," the writer argues.

Zanzu, in fact, has a section called Rights and Law where it warns that sexual violence is a crime, and those who commit such crimes "can be severely punished." Rules of consent apply to married couples and singles, Zanzu writes, adding that it is forbidden to beat, threaten or rape a partner and that "honor-based violence is forbidden, too."

The website also informs migrants that female genital mutilation is forbidden by law throughout Europe.

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