I love Sweden. No, I do. I lived there back in the mid-eighties. I speak the language–however poorly so many years later–but I can still stumble my way through a conversation (I was relatively fluent back in the day, however). And yes, Sweden has always had a reputation for being sexually “open” but, truth be told, I never found it to be all that different from other European countries. Nudity, sex… It’s all part of life so why keep it hidden behind locked doors?
Well, it seems the Muslim population in Sweden has grown exponentially since I lived there. Sweden, with a full 10 million inhabitants, has granted full refugee status to 24,799 Iraqis between 2003 and 2007. To put that in perspective, Great Britain has granted that same status to a mere 260.
Something else you should know about Sweden. While the legal age of sexual consent in America is 18, it is 15 in Sweden. I know, I know, it sounds young, but I and many I know were sexually active by 15 or 16. And it by no means suggests that all 15 year olds are having sex. But to the ones that are, more power to them, I say.
But that’s not the point here. The point is that, since the legal age is 15, it is mandatory in Sweden to have sex education classes at 14. Now this has never raised a hackle among the Swedes, but the influx of Muslim immigrants into the country has thrown a wrench in the system.
“The purpose of the sex education is to provide good information about how the body works, to make the students feel secure in their sexuality and to prevent sexual diseases and unwanted pregnancies,” said Ann-Cristine Jonsson of the Swedish National Institute of Public Health.
The students are taught about various types of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, chlamydia, herpes, hepatitis, and others. Condoms in different flavors like strawberry and orange are handed out to students to take home (oh, those kids and their sweets…). Students are also taught that it is normal to have intercourse with members of the same sex and that they should not tease or bully fellow classmates who are gay.
But certain members of the Muslim community have kept their children out of sex education classes. According to statistics, the concerned parents are more often Muslim fathers concerned about their daughters and Muslim parents who are immigrants, as opposed to Muslim parents born in Sweden. Twenty-seven percent of immigrant’s daughters are kept from partaking in certain school subjects.
However, not all of the Muslim children want to be kept out of these classes. According to 14 year old Fatima Omed whose parents moved to Sweden from Turkey before Fatima was born:
“My parents do not think that the school should run any sex education at all. They say it is not the school’s business. But I think it is exciting. I do not show the condoms for Mum or Dad. I do not plan to use the condoms anytime soon,” she added, laughing.
A new law is being considered that would abolish a provision that was originally set up for Jewish and Catholic students who wanted to get out of religious education classes. All students had the right to opt out of these subjects if they chose.
If this provision were abolished, Muslim parents would no longer have the right to stop their children from taking these classes.
“All students have the right to take part in the compulsory school education, regardless of whether their parents approve or disapprove,” said Sweden’s education secretary, Jan Bjorklund.
Sex education in school has been required learning in Sweden since 1955.
One concern that has been voiced is that if the provision were to be abolished, Muslim parents may pull their children out of school entirely, thus widening the gap between native Swedes and immigrants.
What are your thoughts?