Staunton, September 2 – In Soviet times, it was sometimes said, there was no sex; but there was at least in many periods sex education in the schools. But in post-Soviet times, there appears to be even more sex, although there is no sex education in the schools as a result of enormous parental opposition to it.
As journalist Yuliya Dudkina of Medusa points out, “in contrast to the majority of Western countries, there is no sex education in the schools in Russia” and consequently, there are serious problems with unwanted pregnancies, the spread of HIV and other STDs, and massive ignorance about sex (meduza.io/feature/2017/09/01/vmesto-polovogo-vospitaniya-polovoy-razvrat).
At the beginning of the Soviet period, sex education was a basic part of the school curriculum; but with Stalin’s turn to traditionalism, that ended. Homosexuality was made a criminal offense in 1934, abortions were banned in 1936, and the same year, pedology, which included sex education, was labelled “a pseudo-science” and banned as well.
Sex education classes began to appear at the end of the 1960s largely as a result of urbanization, and in 1983, two obligatory classes were introduced for those in the eighth, tenth and eleventh grades. But at the end of the 1980s, for various reasons, these were dropped in most places.
After 1991, Russian President Boris Yeltsin promulgated a federal program for children which included family planning lectures; and in 15 regions, “schools began to conduct experimental classes on sex education,” Dudkina says. But by 1997, conservative parents and conservative media had succeeded in cancelling this effort.
Since that time, there hasn’t been any formal sex education in Russian schools despite the fact that in 2014, the Duma ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Children which calls for sex education of teenagers. Conservative parents, however, have pledged that there will “never” be any sex education and use a 2012 law on the defense of children to enforce their will.
The Putin government isn’t willing to challenge there: Education Minister Olga Vasiliyeva, for example, says that “sex education of young people must be carried out by parents” not by the schools or anyone else. And she has overseen cutbacks in public campaigns to fight HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
Efforts by some activists to change the situation face enormous opposition from “conservative parents organizations” which exist in most Russian regions and which regularly complain to prosecutors and demand that school programs be checked so that sex education is not introduced on the sly.
These regional organizations came together in 2006 to form the All-Russian Parents Assembly, which pursues the same goals and works against any efforts at sex education outside of the family. To that end, the leaders of this group insist the HIV/AIDS is a myth rather than a plague against which all must struggle.
Some parents do support sex education, as do some teachers. One journalist, Tatyana Nikonova, has used crowd-funding to raise money to publish a textbook called “The Science of Sex for Youths.” So far, she has collected 1.2 million rubles (20,000 US dollars). But for her efforts, she has been savagely attacked.
On Komsomolskaya Pravda radio, she says, conservative Duma deputy Vitaly Milonov described her as “a fascist” who must not be allowed to have any contact with children. But given the importance of her effort, Nikonova says, she believes that his attack is “the best advertisement for my project.”