[WATCH] Nationalist MP blames domestic violence laws for 'confusing' sex-ed lessons

Edwin Vassallo says he shares concerns ‘for our children’ expressed by a mother whose video on school’s ‘diabolical’ sexual health education went viral last week

Edwin Vassallo said that the Istanbul Convention clearly stated that the state should be responsible for deciding what children learn
Edwin Vassallo said that the Istanbul Convention clearly stated that the state should be responsible for deciding what children learn

Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo has a new crusade. He has warned about a ‘threat’ introduced by the Istanbul Convention, which he insists has robbed parents of their ability to decide what their children are taught in school.

 The Istanbul Convention was fully transposed into Maltese law last year and it deals with domestic and gender-based violence.

In a video posted to Facebook on Saturday evening, Vassallo urged parents to ensure that they “are aware of what their children are learning, irrespective of which school they attend”.

“We must be there so that we can know what our children are being taught. Ever since this country passed the law that brought the Istanbul Convention into force, parents have had their ability to decide what their children are taught taken by the state," he argued.

He said that as a result, parents today had been left powerless and unable to decide for their own children.

He thanked two parents who uploaded a video to Facebook in which they said they were concerned about the “filthy” and “diabolical” content Year 6 students were being taught during their PSCD lesson. The video went viral and elicited both criticism and praise.

“As a parent I am also worried that we are confusing our children. It’s important. I as a politician had tried to inform and had spoken out about the dangers we might face as parents when we were discussing the Istanbul Convention,” Vassallo said. He went on to say that the Istanbul Convention made it clear that the government should take over the role of the parent.

“Our children are being taught that it is not the way they are born that makes them male or female, what makes them the person they are sexually but rather what they feel. This was happening in other countries and in parliament I said that this was the danger parents were encountering,” Vassallo said.

Filthy diabolical lessons

The issue was originally raised by a mother, a former PSCD teacher herself, who uploaded a video on Friday after she had been told by the school that she could not simply request that her children be allowed to skip PSCD lessons.

“[When I used to teach] we talked about sexuality, but not this filth, these diabolical lessons. I was surprised, I was shocked at the diabolical lessons, the dirty, naughty lessons that in this book for 10-year-olds, who, like my daughter have no idea what is being shown to them,” she said.

The woman appears to have taken issue with the book “featuring people introducing themselves as gay”.

“The book features people introducing themselves as gay, wearing their underwear, introducing themselves as gay superheroes… I want to ask, what has it all come to for us to be teaching this to 10-year-olds,” she said.

Another issue with the book appears to be the fact that it includes “a conversation between a boy and a girl who look about 11 or 12”.

“They discuss how the boy feels when they are near each other, how he feels when she is near him and when she is pressing on him, and the same for her. This is what is being taught in PSCD in Year 6," the woman lamented.

The post was met with mixed reactions, with some pointing out that the woman’s reaction was part of the reason the lessons were required.

The Education Ministry however said on Saturday that contrary to what was being claimed, the lessons were appropriate for the age group they were being taught to.

“The reference to gay people is one in that is appropriate for the children in the sixth year, as is worthy of a society that is proud of being tolerant, in favour of diversity and that understands the importance of raising children with the values of tolerance and mutual respect,” the ministry said.

READ MORE: Education Ministry laments ‘false and irresponsible’ allegations about sex education in schools

What does Malta’s domestic violence law say?

The Istanbul Convention, as transposed into Maltese law, in its chapter on prevention, states that its signatories “shall take, where appropriate, the necessary steps to include teaching material on issues such as equality between women and men, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non-violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, gender-based violence against women and the right to personal integrity, adapted to the evolving capacity of learners, in formal curricula and at all levels of education”.

Moreover, it calls on countries to take the necessary steps to “promote [these] principles in informal educational facilities, as well as in sports, cultural and leisure facilities and the media”. 

While MaltaToday has not yet obtained a copy of the book being referred to by the ‘concerned parent’, a copy of the Year 6 PCSD syllabus lists a number of learning outcomes from the lessons.

The ‘Growing up’ section in fact includes topics about getting older and the emotional and sexual changes children might be going through at that age. Subjects include ways of contextualising mood changes, as well as an explanation of puberty, male and female body parts, and an understanding of “the importance of intimacy as a way in which couples show their feelings towards each other”.

While some, like Vassallo, agreed with the concerns raised by the mother, others, including many who had similarly aged children, pointed out that parents were informed about what their children would be learning.

“Basically girls as young as 10 and even 9 are starting to have their periods, so the children themselves need to know what it is all about, including the boys,” one user and parent commented.

Another parent agreed that 10-year-olds shouldn’t be exposed to so much information about intimacy but added that “unfortunately, real life has thought us that these things happen. So it’s better that they are taught, and guided on how to react in such situations. Let’s face reality”.

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