Like a feeling of deja vu. The Belgian school year is marked by incidents related to a controversy over “education for relational, emotional and sexual life” courses, between burned schools and demonstrations. It is enough to remember the controversy around the “ABCD of equality” defended by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem in 2013 under the presidency of François Hollande.
“We are in very similar situations, with the same arguments, the same actors, the same story. It is surprising,” judges the former Minister of National Education to BFMTV.com.
A very controversial initiative
In Belgium, where love education has been mandatory since 2012 but not necessarily applied in schools, the French-speaking Minister of Education, Caroline Désir, has decided to relaunch it. Since then, French-speaking Belgium has faced intense controversy.
Fake news, petitions, demonstrations, degraded and burned schools… This school activity of two hours a year of “education in relational, emotional and sexual life” (Evras), mandatory in 6th and 4th grade but also open to other levels , is the object of all criticism.
However, Belgium had taken care to frame the debate. The draft decree validating this program was approved in Parliament at the beginning of September.
“It’s interesting because we chose experimentation before passing the law. At that time, some parents accused us of turning their children into laboratory rats,” recalls Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
“We see that in Belgium, with a text approved by elected officials, the protest speech is the same,” says the woman who now heads the NGO One.
An explosive topic in the middle of the Manifesto for all
The Evras program, which has a very detailed platform, has thus structured the exchanges between teachers and students. Therefore, each age group addresses different topics. For example, between ages 3 and 5, teachers should talk about “body parts” and intimacy before focusing between ages 5 and 8 on “differences” and “consent.”
In France, the program launched in 2013 was more vague. Without additional courses, the ABCDs of equality, which aim to combat stereotypes between girls and boys, primarily seek to frame school practices. For example, teachers were encouraged to organize diversity-oriented sports sessions.
But in the midst of the Manif pour tous, which sought to counter the marriage between same-sex couples that François Hollande wanted to authorize, the issue quickly became explosive.
Rumors of vulva-shaped stuffed animals
In January 2014, Farida Belghoul launched a “dropout days” movement on social media. She, a close friend of the far-right essayist Alain Soral and a former figure of the Beurs march, had asked that her son be taken out of school once a month.
Supported by Béatrice Bourges, founder of Printemps français, a branch of the Manif pour tous, the initiative aimed to denounce “gender theory”, expressing concern about “sexual education courses from kindergarten” that would aim to “destroy the heterosexual model of family.
Farida Beghoul further explained that teachers were going to distribute stuffed animals shaped like vulva or penis and offer sex education modules “with demonstration.”
“Tensions have increased several degrees in ten years”
Successful operation: in France, a hundred schools out of a total of 48,000 establishments were interrupted. In Île-de-France, 30% of students had once missed classes in Hauts-de-Seine and Seine-Saint-Denis. Some members of the FCPE, an association of parents who oppose the boycott, were even physically threatened.
In Belgium history repeats itself. Numerous fake news They are circulating on the internet about this sex education program. Promoted by Catholic and Muslim communities, this false information describes Evras as a program that allows “organized and trivialized pedophilia.”
Since then, eight schools have been vandalized or burned down. Labels that said “No Evras” were found on several of them and Belgian justice opened an investigation for “intentional arson.”
“Tensions have increased several degrees in ten years. It is no longer ‘just’ threats and manipulations, but people who are going to burn down schools. It is even more serious,” laments Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
“It is completely unacceptable to scare parents”
The Belgian government is now trying to relieve the pressure, without much success so far. However, this program is not about teaching or practicing the slightest sexual act, as some detractors of the program denounce, nor even about viewing pornographic images.
“I read that we were going to ‘teach children to masturbate’, it is completely unacceptable to scare parents on this issue,” said Caroline Désir, French-speaking Minister of Education, on RTBF last week.
In France at the time, Vincent Peillon, then Minister of National Education, made similar comments.
He denounced “the exploitation of those” who “want to spread the idea that the school wants to “teach boys to become girls.”
The ABCD of equality finally abandoned
The head of Grenelle Street had asked the school directors to summon the parents of the students who had missed school to remind them of its mandatory nature.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith also took the lead, calling on parents to resume dialogue with school leaders to allow “a rapid return of their children to school.”
“We are proud of the ABCDs, we will not abandon them,” said Vincent Peillon at the time. In fact, six months later, the ABCD of equality was finally replaced by “an action plan for equality between girls and boys.”
“The Belgian government should not back down”
If the government had tried to compensate for this neglect by distributing an educational kit to 320,000 primary school teachers, the Manif pour tous had declared victory, leaving a bitter taste in Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
“The Belgian government should not back down. There are many parents who are faced with the fact that their children watch pornography online and only ask the school to explain their consent,” argues the former socialist elected.
Questioned on Friday during a trip to Charleroi to visit one of the burned schools, Education Minister Caroline Désir did not mention this hypothesis.
Source: BFM TV