Denmark Introduces Compulsory Sex Education
By “Awake!” correspondent in Denmark
IN May 1970 the Danish parliament passed a law making sex education compulsory in the public schools. The law took effect in the school term following the summer of 1971. What does this mean for Danish teachers, schoolchildren and their parents?
Besides fundamental matters such as the function of the sex organs, puberty, menstruation, emissions, sexual intercourse and conception, sex instruction classes will discuss petting, differences in sexual reactions of male and female, masturbation, contraceptive methods and venereal diseases.
The program of instruction is to begin right from the first grade.
What Is New?
Sex education is not new in Denmark. As far back as 1904 some information on the subject was being worked into natural history classes in the middle schools (children aged eleven to fourteen). By 1941-1942 elementary schools were tying in a certain amount of sex education with health and hygiene courses. Then, in 1961, the Ministry of Education approved sex instruction as part of the regular elementary school curriculum. But two years later records showed that only 29 percent of the schools had introduced it.
Even where introduced, sex education classes were then on a voluntary basis. Before children were included, parents were to be consulted.
Now the picture has taken on new tones. The new law makes no provision for excusing children; the instruction is compulsory.
In fact, sex education will be woven throughout the entire school course. When, for example, the problem of overpopulation in India enters a geography discussion, the law provides that the teacher may introduce information about birth-control methods and family planning. So, with sexual instruction not restricted to specific classes but pervading the whole course, it can be seen how difficult it would be to excuse children on any orderly basis.
Why the New Law?
A major factor leading to this legislation seems to have been an appeal from the Danish Women’s National Council back in 1960. Already statistics revealed that some 6,000 young unmarried, pregnant women, about half of them under twenty years of age, were seeking help at Mother’s Aid institutions each year. The 4,000 or so legal abortions performed annually were being far surpassed by an estimated 15,000 illegal abortions during the same period. Complaining that “suppression, vagueness and indefiniteness” in sex education were leading to many such misfortunes, the Women’s National Council called on the government to provide greater enlightenment.
But why compulsory sex education? And why beginning with children of tender years in the early grades?
The claim is made that the compulsory nature of the new law will remove any stigma from sex education, making it seem normal and ordinary rather than something ‘special.’ Any ‘dramatic’ element or sense of ‘mystery’ is supposed to be stripped away from the subject of sex. Children will be encouraged to discuss the subject’s entire range openly and freely.
The point is made that some children mature sexually quite early. About 8 percent of Danish girls are said to experience their first menstruation by eleven years of age. So, third and fourth grade classes will treat this subject to prepare them to take this development without undue shock. It is also held that even very small children need warnings against sexually perverted adults—given without frightening them to the point where they fear any friendly stranger.
What Benefits Are Anticipated?
A primary goal is the reduction of unwanted pregnancies, also abortions, legal or illegal, among very young girls. It is hoped that thereby the emotional upset, the social problems and damaged lives these can bring will be largely avoided.
The advocates of the new law lay the blame for these misfortunes principally on ignorance, superstition and perverted ideas about sex among young boys and girls. Denmark permits publication of pornographic literature, and it is acknowledged that many children get much of their sex knowledge from this source. An opinion underlying the new law says: “This kind of information can be the cause of an unrealistic and twisted view of sexual intercourse.”
But the main means relied on to counter the wave of unwanted pregnancies seems to be by the providing of full information to youths on methods of contraception.
What Will the Children Be Learning?
Obviously, very much depends on the individual teacher and his or her personal standards. Also the textbooks selected.
Some idea of what might be taught can be seen from considering one book already used in some schools. Entitled Dreng og pige, mand og kvinde (Boy and Girl, Man and Woman), this book by medical doctor Bent H. Claësson says in its preface that effort was made to “exclude moralizing” and to stress that “each individual must have the right to satisfy his sexual needs independent of age, sex and—as far as it does not invade the rights of others—of the method used.”
Among photographs illustrating this book’s text are some showing how a couple can attain sexual satisfaction without actual intercourse and also how to masturbate. On this latter subject the book says:
“One can make it a golden rule, without any shame, to masturbate whenever one wants to. It is exactly the same as eating when one is hungry, sleeping when one is sleepy, and urinating when it is necessary.”
On premarital sex relations the author says that ‘fortunately some are liberal about this.’ Unfaithfulness is presented as a possible solution to an inharmonious marriage, and pornography is said to have some psychological value. As to sex relations with animals, he states:
“In this country, as long as one does not mistreat the animal, it is lawful to satisfy sexual desires in this way.”
So while ‘excluding moralizing,’ the author obviously tries to establish a moral code of his own making, one he presents as the ‘rule’ or law to follow. That code condones the practices of masturbation, fornication, homosexuality and even sex relations with animals. Is such a code the kind you would want your young children to learn?
Conflict with Christianity
Very clearly, sex education in the schools may often involve an attack, direct or indirect, on Christian teachings as found in the Bible. The above-mentioned book, in fact, openly says:
“In any case it is wrong to maintain the Christian position that the ‘sexually normal’ is also the natural and right way as against the ‘sexually abnormal,’ which is [thereby viewed as] unnatural, perverse, a deviation or immoral.”
True, this author has since announced a revision of his book and claims to have “weeded out everything which could be considered anti-Christian.” But one may well wonder what he considers the dividing line between what is Christian and what is “anti-Christian.”
If he is guided by the National Church (Lutheran) of Denmark, the ‘weeding out’ may be very minor. Why so? Because it is well known that many clergymen of the National Church hold that neither Christianity nor the Bible expresses any clear or definite moral code.*
Yet, if you will open your Bible and read statements such as those found in Romans 1:24-32, Galatians 5:19, 21 and Ephesians 5:3, 5, you will see that the Bible clearly describes those practicing fornication (premarital sex), adultery (extramarital sex) and homosexuality as persons having “disgraceful sexual appetites,” engaging in what is “obscene.” It also definitely states that no such persons have “any inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and of God” but that they “are deserving of death.” But these statements apparently are not “definite” enough for such clergymen.
Many teachers undoubtedly share the view of these clergymen on sex matters. When these teachers handle classes in reading, writing and arithmetic, this may not matter much. But when it comes to instructing children and young people in attitudes about sex and other serious aspects of life, it can matter a great deal.
See the news report concerning this on page 29.
[Picture on page 5]
When children are instructed about sex, the attitude of the teacher deeply affects the life of the student