Survey shows 77% of Romanians think sex education should be taught at school

More than three-quarters of Romanians believe that sex education should be taught at school as a subject in its own right, according to a survey commissioned by the Society for Contraceptive and Sexual Education (SECS), as part of a project supported by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

The majority of respondents said the topic should be based on scientific facts and cover health-related concepts such as protection from disease, reproduction and abortion, as well as concepts related to emotional intelligence and relationship, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Among those who think sex education in school is a necessity, there was a split between those who think it should be optional and those who think it should be compulsory, and more of the two third of respondents said that parental consent should be a prerequisite for a child to attend sex education classes.

More than half of respondents want education to be provided by specialists with a background in psychology and medicine.

For those who consider sex education a priority, the main reasons are information or awareness raising (39%) and the prevention of unwanted pregnancies (23%). Other reasons given by the respondents were the lack of communication on the subject in the family, the reduction in the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, the reduction in the number of abortions, the prevention of sexual abuse, the reduction in abandonment of children and children’s access to technology.

“The main signal given by the research is that the need for sexual and relational education of families and children is not opposed in Romania, contrary to the discourse publicly promoted by some, and the Ministry of Education must act according to the real needs of society”, explains Gabriel Brumariu, project manager at SECS.

However, the survey revealed that Romanians fear that sex education encourages earlier sexual debut. This is the main reason why some respondents opted for sex education to start at age 14, even though experts say it should actually start at age 9 or 10. In fact, among those who believe that sex education should not be taught in school, the main reason for saying this is the belief that sex education is not suitable for young children (20% of respondents ).

SECS believes that a later approach leaves tweens and teens uncovered for a few crucial years in a world where the internet tends to replace genuine relationships and provides incorrect information and role models, and where peer pressure can expose them to major risks. According to them, international research shows that in countries where education about relationships and sexuality has been introduced in an age-appropriate and evidence-based way, young people start their sex life later, the number of sexual contacts and risky behaviors have decreased, as has the risk of transmission of sexual diseases and the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

“The transition from health education to sexuality education can be done gradually. The two average ages calculated (to begin health education and to begin sexuality education) are understood more as a continuum between the two types of education. Thus, one can start at the age of 8-9 years with health education and gradually introduce subjects related to the health and hygiene of the sexual organs as we grow old, in order to be able to speak openly about sexuality (sexual relations, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.) at the age of 14”, says Gabriel Brumariu.

From a psycho-emotional perspective, psychotherapist Diana Lupu points out that children and adolescents need age-appropriate support to grow into balanced adults: “The journey through preadolescence and adolescence is not is not easy, for the whole family system. Not only physiologically, but also relationally and psychologically, there are many changes. So young people need the support of an adult to understand, integrate and explore all these changes of healthy and enlightened way.

The research took place between February and March 2022, in two phases: a qualitative focus group study, followed by a quantitative study, applied to a nationally representative sample of 802 respondents. The questionnaires were completed by telephone.

The data collected through the survey was presented to the public on July 12 at the French Institute in Bucharest.

The full report is available here.

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Helen D. Jessen