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Sexuality education in Europe: an overview of current policies

 The aims of this article are;

 Firstly, to outline general issues about sexuality education pertaining to curriculum content, the didactic methods used, agencies involved, political support, coverage and adequacy of provision and barriers to effective sexuality education in Europe.

 Secondly, the current state of sexuality education in most European Union member states and Norway is described, enabling a Europe-wide comparison of country experiences in the field.

The data were collected and reviewed as of May 2006. 26 countries covered by the research. Participants were asked to complete the template and also to provide contact details of other people within their country.

Country based results:


Public attitudes towards sex and sexuality education have become more liberal in recent years. Belgium has a tradition of subcontracting some governmental responsibilities to civil society organizations, including sexuality education, which has led to different approaches to and regulations governing sexuality education in the different communities in Belgium. In Flanders, by 2000, sexuality education was included in school objectives, which included comprehensive support for the development of emotional and physical awareness of young people. In the Francophone and Teutonic communities, sexuality education is implemented by family planning centres administered by the Francophone IPPF Member Association, FLCPF. Sexuality education – both in and out of schools – is mainly provided by trained family-planning-centre professionals, but these communities have no outlined objectives for the provision of sexuality education. The quality and availability of sexuality education, therefore, are still dependent on individual providers and school policies.


The general public in France accepts sexuality education and recognize young people as sexual beings. However, conservative and religious groups, particularly Catholic groups, regularly protest against sexuality education in schools. Sexuality education is mandatory in France and is provided in both primary and secondary school, beginning at around the age of six. Parents are sometimes involved. The 2003 regulation stated that sexuality education must integrate biological knowledge and psychological, emotional, social, cultural and ethical dimensions of sexuality. Sexuality education is provided by teachers and health staff and many NGOs are involved in provision, mainly religious organizations, HIV/AIDS agencies and the French IPPF Member Association. Guidelines for sexuality education in France are generally good, but public financing for provision, teaching materials and professional training are thought to be inadequate. Germany Attitudes towards sexuality education in Germany are generally liberal. According to the ‘Pregnancy and Family Aid Act’ (SFHA¨ ndG), sexuality education is not seen as a human right, but as an effective instrument to avoid unplanned pregnancies. However, due to declining birth rates the federal government is increasingly committed to support childbearing, while anti-choice groups are said to be using the changing political environment to intensify their activities. The minimum standards for the provision of sexuality education are regulated at state level, and the quality and availability varies from state to state. Sexuality education is mandatory in Germany, and there are no opt-out clauses. Although sexuality education is required to be taught in a holistic way, teachers often think of the subject exclusively as knowledge of biology and the human body. As 19% of the population are citizens with migrant backgrounds, issues around cultural diversity needs to be integrated into sexuality education.

The Netherlands

 Human rights and individual liberties play an important role in Dutch society, and attitudes towards young people’s sexuality are permissive. Further, the media are largely supportive and informative with regard to sexual matters. Dutch schools are mandated to cover biological aspects of sexuality education, but there is no legislation relating to wider aspects. The Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports is responsible for sexuality education policy in cooperation with other ministries and NGOs. It is acknowledged that both physical aspects and emotional development should be covered, although in practice not all topics are discussed. Sexuality education starts by the age of 11 or 12. One of the main challenges is religious convictions opposing sexuality education, mainly in the Dutch ‘bible belt’. There has also been a rise in migrant populations. A perceived increase in overall risk-taking behaviour among young people is thought to reflect waning political commitment for the subject.


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