Education is one of the main institutions to educate and train people for their personal and social development. Individuals following scheduled courses and program in order to enhance their knowledge and being ready for social and physical realities.
Sex education is a significant element in mainstream education. In order to get young people adopt a habit to have healthy sexual life, sex education is essential. As their peers, young people with disabilities also need this kind of courses when they became active sexually.
European countries have already agreed to provide sexual education services. There are certain regulations, courses and services vary from each country. EU branches and UN commissions on the human rights are also affecting member states policies on this issue.
In this document, there will be brief information about sexual education and awareness for children with disabilities in Belgium, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
The Flemish government and some private initiatives provide sexual education and training programs. There are informative courses and resources for students. These courses and resources aims to teach basic information about body parts and their functions. Moreover, users enable to find general information about sexual activities. On the other hand, there are training programs for both parents and teachers who are responsible for children with disabilities. In this training program, participants are being informed by professionals. Courses includes basic information, frequently asked questions. In addition to that, there are pedagogical formation about best responding way of questions.
One of the best example in the field, Sensoa, is a Flemish centre of expertise, promotes sexual health with an international perspective. Sensoa works on the basis of the World Health Organisation’s definition of “sexual health” which described as sexual health is more than just the absence of disease and preventing the risks of unplanned pregnancy, sexual abuse, STDs or HIV. Furthermore, for Sensoa, sexual health is inextricably linked with promoting and safeguarding sexual rights. They are mentioning that sexual rights should be respected, safeguarded and upheld so that everyone is able to experience his or her sexuality free from coercion, discrimination and violence.
Sensoa also works for sexual education and awareness of persons with disabilities. There are special tools, informative resources, online resources, personal services and training for sexually active persons. They are working together with Flemish government. They are supporting sexual education both at home and at school. Relational and sexual education or ‘RSV’ is included in the attainment targets and developmental goals of Flemish education. These objectives ensure that children and young people are also required to learn about relationships and sexuality, adjusted to age.
In Germany, sexual education is mandatory since 1992. But it has been taught in most schools in the country since the 1970’s. It is starting at a very early age (5 years old). There is a published book for sexual education courses named “Wo kommst Du her” (Where do you come from).
Courses normally cover all subjects concerning the process of growing up, bodily changes during puberty, emotions involved, the biological process of reproduction, sexual activity, partnership, homosexuality, unwanted pregnancies and the complications of abortion, the dangers of sexual violence, child abuse, and sex-transmitted diseases. It is comprehensive enough that it sometimes also includes information on sex positions and the correct usage of contraception.
Explicitly, these courses aim to both educate students and prevent them from potential dangers. There are government programs, civil initiatives and online resources for professionals, parents and students. But it is an ongoing discussion that “who is responsible for this education, parents or the government?”
Sexual education is very common in the Netherlands. There are plenty of resources both online and in the classroom. Dutch government developed “Long Live Love” package (Lang leve de liefde), to enhance teenagers to the skills to make their own decisions regarding health and sexuality.
In the school, sexual education starts in secondary education as a subtopic of biology courses. Similarly with the other countries, The curriculum focuses on biological aspects of reproduction as well as on values, attitudes, communication and negotiation skills. Dutch sex education encourages the idea that topics like masturbation, homosexuality, and sexual pleasure are normal or natural and that there are larger emotional, relational, and societal forces that shape the experiences of sexuality. In case of education of disabled people, together with the government, there are private initiatives which aims to train and educate the students with their parents. One of the good examples is “Lief, Lijf & Leven”. This is a very informative website which contains several videos for sexual education of children with intellectual disability. There are even prepared guidebooks on this topic.
In France, sex education has been part of school curricula since 1973. Schools are expected to provide 30 to 40 hours of sex education to students in grades 8 and 9 (aged 15–16). In September 2013, the government launched a new program called “les ABCD de l’égalité” (the ABCD of equality) whose main aim is to “fight gender stereotypes at school”. The ultimate goal is to foster mutual respect between boys and girls early on so that it impacts their conception of the world later on. Beside governmental initiatives, there are several institutions are targeting to teach disabled people about their bodies and feelings. There are training programs which uses 3D tools to teach functions of body parts. These courses are scheduled based on special needs and questions of participants.