Politicians in Romania have been debating whether to allow sex education in schools since the rebirth of the country’s democracy at the beginning of the 1990s. However a wide front of political and civic groups with religious connections have successfully blocked the introduction of adequate sex ed programmes.

CHAPTER I

 27 Years of Delay

 27 Years of Delay

In 1994, the National Committee for Child Protection (the forerunner of the current national child protection authority) published, in collaboration with UNICEF, a 159-page paper on the situation of children and their families in Romania.

On page 157 the authors drew up a list of priority actions for the Romanian state. At the top was adequate sex education for young people.

In the following 27 years, Romania has witnessed 25 governments, and seven legislative sessions have come and gone, but the introduction of adequate sex education programs has not yet happened. 

All European experiences prove the effectiveness of sex education in reducing social phenomena such as pregnancies and abortions among minors and sexually transmitted diseases.

But Romania has been debating the topic for almost 30 years.

‘Debate’ is not the right word, because Governments have only listened to the voices opposing thee introduction of sex education, while ignoring data and facts. Also, the authorities have made no effort to dispute false information spread by those lobbying against sex education and reproductive rights.

No public servant from the Ministry of Health has ever publicly contradicted the claims made in religious brochures that teenagers who start their sex life quickly reach the threshold of suicide. When similar information was presented by doctors, the College of Physicians did not consider it necessary to intervene. When such information circulated in schools, the Ministry of Education had once more nothing to say.

In the previous article published by the Decree Chronicles we heard students talk about sex education and showed how this subject is taught in other countries in Europe. Here, we  explain why Romanian schools refuse to adequately inform students about sex education.

For this, it is necessary to analyze where concrete opposition to the introduction of sex education has manifested itself. We are talking about political actors, institutions, and civic organizations. All these entities have spoken about the “dangers” of sex education (described, in generic terms, as a kind of attack on the innocence of children), and they have taken concrete action to undermine its introduction.

Opposition to Sex Education
in Other Countries

Opposition to Sex Education in Other Countries

Opposition to sex education is not a phenomenon that only exists in Romania. However, its existence places Romania in a group of states where various political and social entities have found fertile ground to promote an agenda based on the demonization of sex education, the rejection of reproductive rights and the promotion of a society governed mainly by Christian moral concepts.

 Research on sex education published in 2018 by the German Federal Centre for Health Education concludes: out of 25 analysed countries from Europe and Central Asia, 12 have dealt with strong opposition to this topic for at least a decade.

  • In Latvia, the opposition has taken roots among conservative and nationalist political parties such as the National Union, and among conservative NGOs and Russian-speaking communities. The main arguments used in the Baltic country against sex education are as follows: sex education would jeopardize the demographic situation; it would teach children to masturbate; it would harm children’s morality; it would endanger the notion of family and “turn” children into homosexuals.

  • In Russia, opposition to the introduction of sex education has coagulated around parents’ associations, religious institutions and members of Parliament. The main argument against sex education was “the negative influence of information about sexuality on teenager behavior.”

  • In Serbia, in 2018, there was a serious opposition to sex education, manifested even at the level of the Ministry of Education, by teachers and parents. The main argument against it was the “inadequacy” of the subject.

  • In Ukraine, the main opponents of sex education were religious communities and associations. The law allowed these associations to act at the ministerial level or to oppose the implementation of a specific program in certain regions of the country.

  • Spain has not been spared opposition to the introduction of sex education in schools either. It came mainly from conservative groups (such as political parties, religious groups, and family groups). The two arguments used against sex education were: it should happen in the family, which is the only entity entitled to decide the values ​​that children should learn about sexuality, and its messages can alter the morale of young people, as this includes discusssion of gender ideology, a defence of homosexuality, and the legitimization of abortion.

Strategy to Stop Sex Ed:
Manipulation, not Debate

Strategy to Stop Sex Ed: Manipulation, not Debate

What does a map of the main actors involved in manipulating public debate about sexual education – and in eliminating any institutional initiative to implement such a subject in schools – look like in Romania?

At the political level, opposition to sex education has often taken the form of political statements, including those in Parliament, as well as concrete legislative actions to block the systematic and compulsory teaching of sex education in schools.

To understand this complex reality with many actors, as well as many underground aspects, an administrative and legislative intermezzo is necessary.

Currently, sex education is optional in schools, as part of the Health Education class. Less than one in ten Romanian students take this subject. And it is up to the schools and teachers if they wish to address issues of sex in Health Education.

At the same time, Romania has a law on the promotion and protection of children’s rights. This law, first enacted in 2004 and amended over time by several legislative interventions, states that:

the specialized central public administration bodies, the local public administration authorities, as well as any other public or private institutions with attributions in the field of health will carry out systematically, at least once a semester, Education for Life programmes in schools, in order to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy in minors.

The cited provision (at least once a semester) was introduced in the law in April 2020, as a result of a legislative project initiated by MPs from the Save Romania Union (USR) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD). But other groups of  MPs who oppose sex education in schools introduced a competing bill changing this law, at the same time. This is how they did it.

At the beginning of 2020, three legislative proposals aimed at amending the child protection law were registered with the Romanian Parliament. The first (Proposal 1) was initiated by the USR and PSD. It was registered with the Chamber of Deputies in November 2018. It received the final vote of the Deputies in March 2020 and was approved by President Klaus Iohannis on 4 April 2020.

What exactly did Proposal 1 change? It introduced the obligation to carry out Life Education and Sex Education at least once a month. This provision is currently valid.

The second proposal to amend the law from 2004 (Proposal 2) belonged to National Liberal Party (PNL) Deputies Ben Oni Ardelean, Robert Sighiartău, Matei Dobrovie, Dumitru Mihalescul, Florica Cherecheș and Nicolae Neagu. It was registered with the Senate in November 2019 and in April 2020 with the Chamber of Deputies. The proposal aimed to modify a section of this law pertaining to the procedure for placing an institutionalized child in a family.

Robert Sighiartău, Ludovic Orban, republican Ted Cruz and Ben Oni Ardelean on a visit in USA in 2017. | Photo: Robert Sighiartău / Facebook

The third proposal to amend the law from 2004 (Proposal 3) belonged to the Social-Democrat Government. It sought to make multiple changes to part of this law regarding the reorganization of the services provided by the departments of social assistance and child protection. The bill was registered with the Senate in June 2019. After it arrived in the Chamber of Deputies in March 2020, it waited to be put on the agenda and receive the final vote.

Why is the information regarding Proposals 2 and 3 important, given that only Proposal 1 addressed the subject of sex education? Because, at a later stage, seven Romanian MPs used the procedural framework of these legislative initiatives to counter the provision of Proposal 1.

How Cross-Party MPs
Used Arcane Parliamentary Rules
to Block Sex Ed

How Cross-Party MPs Used Arcane Parliamentary Rules to Block Sex Ed

Proposal 3 could no longer undergo substantial changes, as it had received a favourable joint report from the Legal Affairs Committee and the Labour Committee of the Chamber of Deputies at the end of 2019. Aiming at a thorough package of legislative changes, Proposal 3 had the advantage of being a safe vehicle for the introduction, in bulk, of restrictive conditions for sex education in schools.

Proposal 2 was unlikely to pass the final vote of the Deputies. However, it had a fundamental advantage: the report of the commissions had not yet been drawn up, so it could receive further amendments, including some aimed at removing the liberal framework established by Proposal 1.

The Procedural Rules of the Chamber of Deputies make it possible to issue a joint report for legislative projects that have the same purpose (i.e., aim at amending the same legal framework). Thus, Proposal 2 and Proposal 3 were merged. Under the new conditions, Proposal 3, which had already been reviewed by the committees, could now receive a new report, which made it possible to include new amendments.

This was the moment when changes to the article on sex education were introduced in Proposal 3. The authors were Deputies Robert Sighiartău (PNL), Florica Cherecheş (PNL), Elena Hărătău (PSD), Steluţa-Gustica Cătăniciu (unaffiliated), Adrian Solomon (PSD), Nicuşor Halici (PSD) and Senator Titus Corlăţean (PSD). 

The mentioned MPs eliminated the obligation to hold Education for Life classes, including sex education, at least once a semester, replaced the phrase ‘sex education’ with ‘health education’ and introduced the need for parental consent for students to attend such classes. By introducing these amendments in a general draft which aimed at improving Law 272 of 2004 on several levels, the seven MPs put their colleagues in an ungrateful position: that of not being able to vote against it.

Proposal 2 was put to vote in the Chamber of Deputies one day after the amendments were made through the joint report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on Labor. It failed, but it had done its job, allowing the content of Proposal 3 to be altered. 

Proposal 3 was also put to the vote in the Chamber of Deputies on the same day. It passed, together with the restrictive amendment on sex education.

Receiving it for approval, President Klaus Iohannis challenged the law in the Constitutional Court by citing, among other things, the lack of clarity of the new provisions regarding sex education in schools. But the constitutional judges rejected the presidential request, so the President sent the law back to Parliament for reconsideration, which the Constitution only allows him to do once. 

At the current moment, the law has passed the Senate without any change. If it passes the Chamber of Deputies in the same conditions, Proposal 3 will replace Proposal 1 among the laws of the Romanian state. The framework for sex education will be corrected in line with views that reject the presence of sex education in schools.

In this case, the legal manipulation of law changes is replacing a rule by parliament, where there is debate and coherent and predictable legislative action.

The need for parental consent has always been promoted by a powerful lobbying force: the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR). In a statement issued in April 2020, the BOR news agency said that sex education classes can only be given by teachers, that they are ineffective, and that parents should have the right to decide what their child studies.

But the opposition did not come solely from only the Orthodox church. The Catholic Church also opposes the idea that sex education should be a compulsory discipline, while the Christian Church based on the Gospel considers that the imposition of sex education is an attack on the purity of children.

CHAPTER II

‘Liberals’ and ‘Socialists’ Unite
to Oppose Sex Ed 
 

‘Liberals’ and ‘Socialists’ Unite to Oppose Sex Ed  

What do most of the MPs who work to limit sex education in schools have in common? First, their aversion to ideas they associate with the progressive viewst, such as abortion on demand, and the reproductive rights of women, the rights of sexual minorities and sexual health policies and services in general. This aversion has been constantly expressed either from the rostrum of the Parliament or on social networks, according to the extensive documentation undertaken by the Decree Chronicles.

In 2013, Liberal (PNL) MP Florica Cherecheș gave a speech promoting the March for Life⁠—an annual event organized by anti-abortion groups⁠—and presented abortion on demand as an option that should only be allowed when the mother’s life is in danger. The PNL politician also mentioned the inclusion in the school curriculum of Health Education and Education for Life. She made this proposal as a member of the Education Committee in the Chamber of Deputies. In 2017, Deputy Florica Cherecheș promoted the March for Life in the Parliament.

An abortion can deprive a woman of the joy of ever being a mother, in addition to endangering her life. In the face of a sharp demographic decline, an aging population and a relatively high infant mortality rate, it is essential that we protect the lives of unborn children and stand by women going through a crisis of pregnancy. 

Florica Cherecheș, former liberal MP

Robert Sighiartău is currently the Vice-President of PNL and one of the most vocal Liberal Party members speaking on issues such as abortion, sex education, and the ‘traditional’ family. In 2018, he supported a referendum backed by a conservative network called the Coalition for Family which called for the Romanian Constitution to change the wording of its understanding of marriage to be ‘between two spouses’ to ‘between a man and a woman’. However the referendum failed because not enough voters turned up to make the decision viable in law. Sighiartău has frequently attacked sex education in schools on his Facebook page.

I salute the vote cast yesterday by my colleagues in the Senate and I am glad that the senators of the Governing Coalition supported by an overwhelming majority the right of parents to decide on the education of their children.

Robert Sighiartău, liberal MP

Another representative of the opposition to sex education in schools is the PSD Senator Titus Corlățean. His position is more nuanced, and places sex education as part of a wider range of topics.

We are talking about the need to preserve the innocence of minors. […] A broader, more generous concept, Education for Life, has been introduced, which is a much more complex concept, and which covers aspects related to intimate life and what sexual intercourse is, aspects related to health education, hygiene and so on, important things.

Titus Corlățean, social-democrat MP

Another PSD representative, Deputy Nicușor Halici, preferred a straightforward approach, announcing from the rostrum of the Parliament that sex education destroys the character of children, although she did not back this up with research

Too bad [then-head of the anti-corruption party Save Romania Union (USR) and a supporter of sex education in schools] Dan Barna is not in the room today, to look into his eyes and ask him, how would he react, as a parent, if his second or third grade child came home from school and told him he had learned that day how two people have sex. In second grade! We call that education? No, it is in fact damage, and oftentimes an irreparable one, to a child’s character.

Nicușor Halici, social-democrat MP

Ecumenical Prayer Group:
Linking Anti-Sex Ed MPs

Ecumenical Prayer Group: Linking Anti-Sex Ed MPs

Many parliamentarians who oppose sex education in schools are part of the Ecumenical Prayer Group. In 2017 and 2018 this parliamentary body was led by Liberal Florica Cherecheș, and is currently led by Social Democrat Titus Corlățean.

The Prayer Group has existed in the Romanian Parliament since the 1990s, even though it has functioned informally for a long time.Other extremely vocal liberal MPs on issues such as sex education or abortion have also been part of the Group in the last legislative session, including Ben Oni Ardelean,who was appointed in October 2021 as Adviser to Liberal (PNL) then-Prime Minister Florin Cîțu, Daniel Andrei Gheorghe and Pavel Popescu.

Popescu is one of the MPs who publicly distributed false information. He stated that the Matic Report⁠—a document adopted by the European Parliament on access to health and sex education for women and sexual minorities⁠—includes provisions about men being able to give birth. He also stated that the World Health Organization recommends that countries teach babies aged 0-4 years about the pleasures of early masturbation.

My wife and her friends will vote for [former Romanian Prime Minister and then-head of the European Parliamentary Group Renew Europe] Dacian Cioloș in the 2024 [Romanian] presidential elections. That’s because following the vote of Renew Europe in the European Parliament [to adopt the Matic Report], today we, fathers, can share with mothers the burden of breastfeeding. Some people have gone completely insane. 

P.S. Do you know where I can find calming balm for nipples in Bucharest?

Pavel Popescu, liberal MP

Daniel Gheorghe is another Liberal who is vocal on issues such as the Coalition for Family referendum and abortion.

In 2020, the Ministry of Health recommended that public hospitals, which were refusing on-demand abortions due to the pandemic, treat the procedure as a medical emergency. Deputy Daniel Gheorghe sounded the alarm on social networks.

Under the conditions created by the pandemic, this is unacceptable, given that chronically ill people and those in emergency units are more difficult to treat.

So what do we do? Do we postpone difficult operations for people with serious illnesses and perform abortions on demand to fit into the statistics of those who live from this terrible vice? And one more thing for those who don’t know history: abortion is a barbaric act that was first legalized in the name of “progress” by two criminals, Stalin and Hitler.

Daniel Andrei Gheorghe, liberal MP

More vocal on social networks than in Parliament, Ben Oni Ardelean is a former Baptist pastor, a university professor at the Faculty of Baptist Theology in Bucharest and one of the supporters of the Coalition for Family referendum in 2018.

For the Transylvanian Liberal, sex education should only be about how to avoid pregnancy in minors. For him, sex education and sexual health services are equivalent to the spread of homosexuality.

The Matic Report aims to get Member States to use schools for neo-Marxist ideological militancy and propaganda, evading parental will, by teaching “sex education in schools” (a subject that would not be based on concrete topics, such as the reduction of pregnancy in minors, but on the implantation of the new ideological vision about society and man).

The natural family is the core of contemporary European society! The demographic decline of Europe is worrying, and such measures only further destroy society and exacerbate this phenomenon.

Ben Oni Ardelean, liberal MP

Ex-President of Chamber of Deputies:
Prayer Group Is “Important Structure”
to “Reset Relations with Russia”

Ex-President of Chamber of Deputies: Prayer Group Is “Important Structure” to “Reset Relations with Russia”

The Ecumenical Prayer Group includes MPs belonging to various religious denominations. Officially, the Group advocates for the promotion of Christian values ​​in political life. 

However, former President of the Chamber of Deputies Valeriu Zgonea gave the Group a definition that is closer to reality. He defined the group as one of the most important structures connected to Orthodoxy: If we want to be open and rebuild, and reset relations with Russia, for example, this structure is one of the most important, Zgonea said in 2013.

 Other leaders of the group have been Petru Andea, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Education between 2017-2019, and Angel Tîlvăr, former Minister-Delegate for Relations with Romanians Everywhere. 

In 2005, the Group began organizing an annual event called Breakfast with Prayer, which brings together politicians and religious representatives from around the world. The topics addressed are obviously related to religious matters. It is an event where political actors become familiar with this area of ​​influence.

But Lunch with Prayer is not a Romanian idea. It comes from abroad.

 In the summer of 2021, the European Parliament’s Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights (EPF) published the study ‘Extremist Religious Funders Against Human Rights for Sexuality and Reproductive Health in Europe 2009-2018’

 The EPF is a network of MPs across Europe committed to protecting the continent’s sexual and reproductive rights. Despite its name, it is not a structure affiliated with the European Parliament. EPF is a non-governmental organization that aims to monitor the effective means by which a country comes to embrace restrictive views and policies regarding abortion, reproductive rights, and sex education.

 In the study by EPF, there is a name connected to Romania, one that leads directly to the Parliament: a guest of the annual Breakfast with Prayer, The European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

Breakfast with Prayer wouldn’t have existed – according to the EPF report – without Leo van Doesburg, Director of European Affairs for the ECPM. Originally based in Timisoara, van Doesburg brought together politicians from Eastern Europe to form ECPM and to be able to influence the legislation of different countries. He is currently active in European institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg, adds the EPF study. Leo van Doesburg was present at the Breakfasts organized in Romania in 2009, 2010, 2016, and 2018.

The EPF study draws attention to Leo van Doesburg’s strategy to attract politicians by organizing prayer breakfasts throughout Europe. Although it is not an invention of ECPM, the members of the movement have started the breakfasts in Finland, Latvia, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine.

Another source of foreign influence in Romania in terms of limiting sexual rights is the Strike for All (LMPT), a movement that emerged in France in 2012 in response to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage. EPF research shows that, although it did not manage to stop the change in legislation in France, the success of the movement was realized in other countries. Local variants have appeared in Germany, Austria, Finland, Italy, Slovakia and Romania. In Romania, it is the Coalition for Family.

Even though the referendum initiated by Coalition of Family was not successful, it provided an unprecedented example of how legislation can be changed in order to limit certain rights. Such an endeavor disguised as civic concern could be replicated at any time on topics such as on-demand abortion or sex education.

Romanian Politicians:
Part of Greek-Russian-Backed Orthodox Initiative
to Promote Laws “In the Interests of Orthodoxy”

Romanian Politicians: Part of Greek-Russian-Backed Orthodox Initiative to Promote Laws “In the Interests of Orthodoxy”

The Interparliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy (IAO) is a body with the participation of 21 Parliaments from European countries. Since 2000, the Assembly has also included members of the Romanian Parliament.

The IAO is another mean by which Romanian legislative action can be channelled towards limiting sexual rights.

The IAO is a Greek initiative in which Russia plays an important role. Both Russia and Greece contribute 200,000 euros per year to support the Assembly’s activities. Romania pays an annual contribution of 10,000 euros.

According to the Council of the Russian Federation (the upper house of the country’s Federal Parliament), the main objectives of IAO are to coordinate the legislative activities of Member States, to encourage the enactment of laws in the interest of Orthodoxy in societies where Orthodoxy is a fundamental cultural and ethnic factor, and to promote communication between churches and the adoption of political measures to protect Orthodox values.

In the current governing bodies of IAO, Romania has four representatives: Ioan Vulpescu (PSD), Gabriel-Ioan Avrămescu (PNL), Ilie-Alin Coleșa (AUR) and Silviu Feodor (from the minority community of Lipovan Russians).

CHAPTER III

New Nationalist Party AUR:
Vocal Opposition to Sex Ed

New Nationalist Party AUR: Vocal Opposition to Sex Ed

A nationalist party founded in 2019, the Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR), is the only party in the Romanian Parliament that has formally adopted a political-religious orientation. It is the only party that has stipulated in its program that it opposes the defamation of the clergy.

In view of its ideology, AUR rejects sex education, reproductive rights and sexual health services, even though the party’s program includes creating a sex education program for teenagers and a health education program dedicated to pregnant women, in order to reduce the number of abortions.

But the program must be viewed in light of the values guiding AUR – Christianity, the traditional family, and the nation. It remains to be seen how the party’s philosophy is translated into action by its MPs. We made an inventory of senior AUR members’ activity and statements on this subject for the Decree Chronicles.

In Parliament, AUR Deputies and Senators have all expressed opposition to sex education.

Claudiu Târziu, AUR Senator and one of the party’s co-Presidents, led the discussion towards the moral dimension of sex education and concluded that this is a sign of regression, rather than progress.

You [the members of the Parliament from the other parties] are trying, through all sorts of normative acts, through all kinds of public statements, to determine a change of mentality, thinking that you are bringing about progress. This is not progress, sir, we’re going back to being cavemen, that’s what’s happening!

Claudiu Târziu, MP representing AUR

AUR Senator Mircea Dăneasă embraced the Christian approach to the issue, proposing abstinence:

We can’t talk about sex education without talking, in parallel, about ascetic education.

 Modern man, and I’m not the one saying this, but neuroscience, has a hypersexualized brain due to the premature development of sexual synapses. This is science, not ideology. A balanced development of the brain cannot be obtained by laws imposed on ideological criteria.

Mircea Dăneasă, MP representing AUR

AUR MPs’ manipulation of information extends to the issue of reproductive rights.

Opposition was taken from the Parliament to social networks by the other AUR co-President, George Simion.

We consider that the adoption by the European Parliament of the Matic Report, which stipulates that men can give birth, is an anomaly. All studies, including recent parliamentary debates on sex education in schools, show that Romanians are overwhelmingly on the side of normalcy and want to protect their children from harmful ideologies.

George Simion, MP represeting AUR

While in the case of AUR the opposition to sexual rights is embraced by the whole party, in PNL and PSD opposition is factional, and manifesting itself in neo-conservative groups.

The discourse of all these factions is built on BOR’s arguments against sex education. The Romanian Orthodox Church is one of the biggest (and most vocal) opponents. The religious institution is not only a producer of discourse but has a real influence on educational and health policies.

In some cases, BOR is stronger than the groups of politicians at legislative level.

BOR’s Fake-News Factory

BOR’s Fake-News Factory

The biggest fake news factory on the topic of sex education is not the political world, but the Romanian Orthodox Church. Take the following example.

 In 2011, the Archdiocese of Suceava printed a pamphlet entitled Sex Education – A Danger to Our Children. The booklet was attributed to Dr Paula Iliescu, a specialist in paediatric psychiatry. The medical staff made the following statements (unsupported by factual data):

 sex education encourages debauchery and murder; 

after the introduction of sex education classes, the number of abortions, rapes, the frequency of sexually transmitted diseases and the frequency of breast and cervical cancer increased;

homosexuality is an anomaly;

any relationship that does not end in marriage is an indisputable failure with a high risk of depression and suicide (a fact confirmed by numerous studies that show that the rate of depression and suicide is much higher among young people who have started their sexual life).

Click on the image to read the brochure.

This BOR brochure has been circulating in schools and hospitals (more information can be found on investigative news site Să Fie Lumină ( Let There Be Light). Other brochures and books about abortion and contraception written in the same alarmist, manipulative tone, have been published by Doxologia, a publishing house that supports the activity of the Metropolitanates of Moldova and Bucovina, since 2008.

BOR’s role is not limited to publicly feeding and issuing false theories. The religious institution uses its lobbying influence in various Ministries to block strategies and public policies that are at odds with Orthodox morality. Such a situation occurred in June 2018 when the Ministry of Education released for public debate the Parental Strategy. The Orthodox Church was extremely disturbed by two phrases in the document:

the parental education system must support the development of key principles aimed at promoting human rights, respect for diversity and the active promotion of gender equality; 

parental styles need to be reviewed from the perspective of relating to children and removing gender stereotypes, which influence the different life paths of girls and boys.

The Church, the Parents’ Associations for the Religion Class (APOR), and the Romanian Academy, all pressured the Ministry to withdraw the Parental Strategy. It was a document aimed at improving national policies in the field of education and at creating a legal framework for the development of parental education, on which the Ministry, together with specialists and organizations in the field, had worked for three years; a document aimed at the best interests of the child. It was withdrawn and never put up for discussion again. BOR and APOR had been consulted during the three years in which the strategy was designed, but the resulting final version was considered unacceptable.

In the end, it was done as the Church wanted.

CHAPTER IV

BOR’s Influence in Schools:
Through Parents’ Associations

BOR’s Influence in Schools: Through Parents’ Associations

Parents’ Associations for Religion Class are some of the civic bodies through which BOR exercises its influence in society. In some cases, these associations are led by members of the Coalition for Family.

In 2015, the Vice-President of APOR Romania was Romeo Moșoiu. During this time he was also an advisor with the Ministry of Education. In 2015, a letter sent by several organizations, including APOR, to the Ministry of Education called for the promotion of abstinence in schools until marriage, as “the best thing for children’s health”. Following an uproar from civil society, Moșoiu resigned from his position in APOR.

 However he is still an advisor with the Ministry of Education.

Oana Moșoiu, Romeo Moșoiu’s wife, was involved in a team that worked on the curriculum for an optional course, Adolescence and Self-Knowledge, meant to offer an alternative to Health Education. This class has been available since 2018, with the approval of the Ministry of Education, and is recommended by the Holy Synod of BOR. The team that worked on the optional class included five Religion teachers, a Religion inspector, four academics and a psychotherapist.

The optional class aims to help students identify the role of self-control in the biophysical and emotional realms. That is, to practice abstinence. Scena9 wrote in detail about this topic in 2019. 

APOR has been extremely vocal on the topic of sex education. In 2016, APOR Iași sent the message that health education is the Trojan horse of school pornography. The brochure of the Archdiocese of Suceava from 2011 was coordinated by the president of APOR Neamț. The same association tried to discredit the National Student Council every time this representative body of schooled teenagers brought up the need for sex education.

The Ministry of Education is not the only institution under pressure from factors trying to limit sex education in schools. The Ministry of Health is navigating equally troubled waters.

Conservative Groups:
Ministry of Health Must “Protect Public Morality”

Conservative Groups: Ministry of Health Must “Protect Public Morality”

In the spring of 2016, the Ministry of Health invited citizens to a consultation on an Integrated Multi-Annual National Plan for Health Promotion and Health Education. At the local level, the discussions were organized by the county-level public health directorates (DSPs). There is very little information about what happened during these consultations. Only two DSPs published the list of participants.

In Neamț there were three participants: a member of the Coalition for Family, the president of APOR Neamț who is also a member of the conservative Federation of Pro Vita Organizations and a member of the Parents League Association for Education⁠—another NGO that militates against sex education. 

Marius Apopei was also a member of the Coalition for Family. At that discussion he approved the points of view expressed by Pro Vita and ALPE.  Nowadays he is member of the liberal party. 

The views presented by the three were as follows:

the Ministry of Health has an obligation towards children in Romania to strengthen the norms that protect public morality;

rejecting gender theory is a priority, as it leads to confusion and mental illness that damages the mental health of minors; 

banning depravity programs, accompanied by consultation with Pro Vita, which already conducts intimate education programs based on moral-Christian principles.

APOR and the Coalition for Family also had a representative at the consultations in Bihor County in the person of Moise Letea, a member of both associations.

The Integrated Multi-Annual National Plan for Health Promotion and Health Education does not mention in any of the 24 pages the concept of sex education,although the authority under whose auspices the public consultation was organized, namely the Ministry of Health, systematically mentions the need for sex education programs.

What is this Integrated Multi-Annual National Health Promotion and Health Education Plan and why is it important?

Before anything else, it is necessary to understand the concrete ways in which notions of sex education can reach – in the legislative conditions of today’s Romania – the schools in the country.

Ministry of Health:
Another Route to Sex Ed

Ministry of Health: Another Route to Sex Ed

Sex education can reach students through the Ministry of Education, as well as through the Ministry of Health. In 2016, the above-mentioned plan was adopted as part of the National Health Strategy 2016-2020. Analyzing the available data, the plan drew attention to the phenomenon of underage mothers, to the fact that young people start their sexual life early and do not use a condom, as well as to sexually transmitted diseases.

Click on the image to see the full document.

Some of the main objectives of the document were as follows: 

To elaborate an Action Plan regarding the implementation of the National Program for Health Education at pre-university level, which will ensure the implementation of the program in all pre-university education units, in the timeframe 2016-2020.

It was the responsibility of public health directorates to promote and evaluate health education in schools.

How does this measure translate into practice today? The Decree Chronicles talked to several DSPs in the country to understand the intended consequences of the Plan. The mechanism is as follows: health education in schools should be taught by school doctors or DSP doctors/nurses.

However, Romania does not have school doctors in every school. In Alba County, there are currently only 22 school doctors and 58 nurses. At the level of DSPs, the staff deficit is even greater. So great, in fact, that the department in charge of promoting and evaluating health education has even been dismantled in some DSPs.

Where the human resource is available, teaching is undertaken according to the topics decided by the Ministry of Health. The Ministry sends leaflets and information. In February 2021, the topic was reproductive health. In December the theme will be transmissible diseases. Within the scope of these topics, students can receive information about ​​sex. But only if there is staff.

“Lots of paper, lost of paperwork and zero budget,” is how a DSP representative described the program for promoting and evaluating sex education in schools.

Epilogue with Specialists

Epilogue with Specialists

The Ministry of Education has had a specialist in Health Education for almost 20 years. Daniela Călugăru has been the coordinator of the Health Education program since 2002.

The Decree Chronicles has tried to talk to a specialist from the Ministry, in an attempt to understand why this discipline has not yet become mandatory.

During our telephone conversation, all the Ministry told us was that the framework plan needs to be changed and there have been debates at the Ministry of Health. When we asked if there was any opposition to the introduction of sex education in schools, and who were the opponents, Daniela Călugăru asked if she would be quoted on this. When we said yes, she told us to contact the press office, otherwise she could get in trouble.


About the authors


Authors

  • Jurnalistă la Dela0.ro și membră a colectivului Să fie lumină. A debutat în presa TV, dar din 2014 lucrează în media alternativă.

  • Co-fondator al publicației Dela0.ro și editor coordonator al proiectului de investigații Să fie lumină. În presa alternativă din 2011.