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The Convention does not require introduction of a sex education programme in primary schools — Clarification of the Ministry of Justice regarding the video message of Chairperson of the Chamber of Advocates Ara Zohrabyan

21/05/2020 Font
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The Ministry of Justice continues to highly appreciate the observations of the legal community regarding the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (the Lanzarote Convention).

We reaffirm our willingness to address all observations and concerns not only through official statements, but also during open and face-to-face public deliberations.

Thus:

1.     With regard to the statement on ratification "behind the curtains, without public deliberation", it is necessary to mention that the domestic process of each Convention requiring ratification is the same, and it implies reception of opinions and conclusions from the competent authorities, approval of the recommendation on ratification during the session of the Government, the decision of the Constitutional Court, a discussion and conclusion held and drawn by the lead committee of the National Assembly, a discussion and voting during the plenary session.

In case of the Lanzarote Convention, all the mentioned actions were public, the documents are available on the websites of all competent authorities, and besides that, the sessions of the Constitutional Court, the lead committee of the National Assembly and the plenary sessions have been broadcast online.

By the way, Mr. Zohrabyan participated in the session of the Standing Committee on Protection of Human Rights and Public Affairs during which the Committee unanimously gave a positive conclusion on the issue of ratification, but, of course, Mr. Zohrabyan did not stay for the discussion of the Convention. Watch the video for details (from 4:03:05 minutes, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r7R9foO_Hc&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR09PAFvd-OruJ43yIotZXQLBa-sStqJ1e5c2ImQgLPQxcrIYWneBsNqQsg).

In any case, in the case of conventions, discussions at the national level are discussions on joining (sign, ratify) and not joining conventions, not on making amendments to the texts of those conventions. We believe that the discussions proposed by Mr. Zohrabyan mainly refer to implementation of the provisions of the Convention, and it seems that no government agency had refused to participate in the discussions on implementation of the provisions along with competent government agencies. Therefore, everything lies ahead of us.

 2.     On document "having been discovered"

With the formulation “European Standards of Sex Education”, Mr. Zohrabyan and other speakers mention a document that anyone can find by simply searching on Google. This document is a recommendation for policymakers and is drawn up by 19 experts from different fields.

Of course, the speakers do not even mention an example of one European country where the cited "standard" is applied. One can also find a document related to each field and prepared by certain experts and claim that it is a standard for the state policy in the given field, and link it to some convention.

 

  1. 3.        The Lanzarote Convention and its link to sex education

During the public discussion quoted in the video message of Mr. Zohrabyan,
it was clearly stated (from 6:15 minutes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5C5zRFCPPWbM) that the Lanzarote Convention does not define standards for sex education and, in general, it is aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse; therefore, in this regard, prevention is of major significance.

In Article 6 of the Convention, as a measure to prevent such crimes, it is stated that pedagogues, in collaboration with parents, should, at the levels of primary and secondary education, provide children with information on the risks of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, as well as on the means to protect themselves, in line with their evolving capacities.

Article 6 of the Convention particularly states the following: "This information, provided in collaboration with parents, where appropriate, shall be given within a more general context of information on sexuality and shall pay special attention to situations of risk, especially those involving the use of new information and communication technologies."

As for the mentioned point of the Explanatory Report, it is said that providing information on sexual exploitation or sexual abuse out of the general context of normal sexuality could be disturbing for children. Therefore, the information to be provided on the risks of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse should be presented within the general context of sex education. It is also necessary to pay attention and make sure this information does not have a negative impact on children’s attitude towards adults.

In the same Explanatory Report, in this regard, it is also stated that, generally, it is first and foremost the responsibility of parents to educate children about sexuality and the risks of sexual exploitation or sexual abuse (point 58); in addition, it is stated that the mentioned information does not necessarily have to form a part of a teaching programme, but could be provided in a non-formal educational context (point 60).

In other words, according to the Convention:

-       talking to children and educating them about questions regarding sexuality and the risks of being exposed to sexual abuse is the primary responsibility of parents, and this upbringing, in co-operation with pedagogues, may be effective.

-       risks of being exposed to sexual abuse, as well as the information on measures of self-defence do not necessarily have to turn into a formal educational programme.

-       what is more important is that this information will be provided to children in a broader context of information on sexuality, appropriate for their age, maturity and perception ability, according to necessity.

Therefore, the Convention does not require the introduction of a sex education program at primary school. As for the excessive use of the so-called "European standards", which turned out to be a recommendation of experts for states, to dispel concerns, once again, we refute their link to the Convention and the possibility of their applicability in our country.

 

  1. About allusions

All the Conventions of the Council of Europe contain explanatory reports, and the Lanzarote Convention is no exception; in this context, reference to the name of the Istanbul Convention does not reduce the significance of the rights protected by these two Conventions. What is also important is that Mr Zohrabyan has declared several times that, as a lawyer and a human being, he is against any kind of violence against any person, regardless of any attribute of that person.

We are certain that there will be more discussions on sexual education with those in charge of implementing for the state policy on education, pedagogues, psychologists and social workers in the near future; thus, as Mr Zohrabyan mentioned in his speech ("let's leave this issue to specialists"), and let us lawyers be content with the fact that the Lanzarote Convention requires neither introduction of sexual education (which is a really important issue) nor a special sexual education programme, nor any "standard"in particular.

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