For many illiberal and conservative governments, anti-discriminatory, anti-hate speech and sexual education are seen as an ideological enemy because they promote critical thinking and enable free and fact-based decision-making. Instead, such governments favour education based on conservative, often Catholic values and replace knowledge with ideologization.

This is how Milosz Hodun, President of Projekt: Polska, explains the relevance of the Ed Net project supported by FNF European Dialogue Programme. In countries such as Poland, the topic of anti-discrimination and anti-hate speech has been removed from school curricula and sexual education has often been misrepresented as a threat to children.

Sex education as a bitter enemy of the government

Led by the ruling Law and Justice Party, conservatives in Poland have long sought to portray comprehensive sex education and efforts to advance gender equality as attacks on “traditional” family values, using such arguments to defame groups fighting for women’s and LGBT rights. In the last year, they supported the so-called “stop paedophilia” bill that, according to many experts, could even criminalise those who teach sex education to children and punish them to prison sentences of up to five years.

Under these difficult political circumstances, the task of providing sex education fully depends on civil society that is often not prepared for such a task. The Ed Net project helps members of Polish civil society to gain skills and knowledge needed to conduct lessons and trainings in this field.

Ed Net: Empowering civil society

In order to get a better understanding of the regional context, a group of Polish Ed Net experts carried out a study visit to the Baltic countries in July this year. They met with inspiring experts working in the areas of hate speech, discrimination and sex education to learn about their experience and to exchange best practises.

The experts were consequently involved in the preparation of a two-day “training for trainers”, a workshop aiming at equipping members of liberal NGOs from all over Poland with the needed skills to conduct lessons on anti-discrimination and sexual development. As the next step, Projekt: Polska and the Ed Net experts are planning to publish workshop scenarios and informative and inspiring educational materials. Education is the best tool for tackling discrimination and for building inclusive societies. The Ed Net project specifically underlines the importance of comprehensive sexual education.

Sexual education is essential to help young people make decisions about matters such as consensual sex and consent, preventing sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, reducing unwanted pregnancies and maternal mortality, and helping people live healthy, safe and productive lives.

Left to Right: Michael Sawicki, Milosz Hodun, Michal Tecza, Gabriela Juszczuk

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