Sex Education Patchy in Europe | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.12.2006

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Sex Education Patchy in Europe

A new report shows that strong objections exist to sex education in a number of European countries, including Germany. It identifies religious influence as the main reason. Sex education remains optional in some states.

A bee covered in pollen lands in a sunflower

Birds do it, bees do it...

Europe might like to see itself as progressive when it comes to matters of sexuality, but a new international study has come to the surprising conclusion that sex education is still not fully accepted here. Vast differences also exist in how the subject is taught across the continent, according to the report co-conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report identified strong religious pressure as the reason for the varying quality of sex education in many schools. Religious organizations are also becoming increasingly involved in teaching children about sexuality.

Strong objections

Furry cushions in condom form. The cushions, which come in various sizes and colours. are an educational tool designed to promote safer sex in schools

Novelty cushions designed to promote safer sex in schools

"In countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, sexuality is widely accepted and supported, while objections are forcefully made in countries such as the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland and Poland," the report said.

Sex education is not mandatory across Europe -- with opting out possible in the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Poland, Bulgaria and Cyprus. The report, which included 26 European countries and was co-authored by the WHO, the International Planned Parenthood Federation's European network and Sweden's Lund University, argues in favor of better provision.

Informed choices

"Accurate and scientifically validated information for young people about the prevention of disease and unwanted pregnancy enables them to make informed choices and protect their health, but does not hasten the onset of sexual activity," it said.

The report, which illustrates the main trends in the field of sex education, said the average age at which teenagers start to have sex ranges from 15.7 in Iceland to 18 in Slovakia.

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