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Romania is the first EU country in number of single mothers. Bucharest MPs voted a controversial law on sex education in schools

There are difficult realities in Romania. They often refer to children and young people, on whose rights Romania continues to occupy the low position in the European and international rankings.

One of the phenomena that has been talked about in recent years is that of girls becoming mothers before the age of eighteen. In practice, a quarter of EU minors are in Romania. It is an extremely worrying picture, with the average age of underage mothers in Romania not exceeding 15 years and sometimes even starting at 13.

In the main hospital of Calarasi County (in the south of the country, just 130 km from the capital Bucharest) on average half of pregnant women are minors, and in the vast majority of cases their pregnancy has never been followed by a doctor. This is explained by the gynecologist Andrei Dumitrescu in an interview for that doctors often resort to cesarean section due to the insufficient anatomical development of girls.

“Many of the minors, in pediatric age – under 16 years – have sex with adult couples, often adults and we as medical staff have the obligation to report, in this sense we do interviews, police investigations, but then, I do not can I. tell me what the consequences are, ”explains the doctor.

Most single mothers come from difficult situations where, in addition to access to health, access to education is not guaranteed. Without policies designed to improve social conditions – and access to the education system is essential – that of single mothers will continue to be a common phenomenon in Romania.

A study created by Save the Children Romania confirms the importance of the educational component in this context. In fact, 83% of single mothers do not go to school, 64% dropped out of school before becoming pregnant. Only 36% of single mothers have a high school diploma, while 7% have completed high school. The lives of single mothers and their children are characterized by poverty. For 59% of them, the main source of livelihood is still social assistance to their children. Most single mothers (68%) live in households with a maximum of 2 bedrooms where an average of 4.5 people live, three of whom are children, the study says.

Romanian children remain the most exposed to poverty and social exclusion in the entire European Union. Romania is the EU member state with the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion among children: 41.5% of them, or 1.5 million children, live in low-income families to ensure a dignified life, they suffer from social isolation, adequate nutrition and quality socio-educational and health services.

Romania remains a country of strong inequalities: the risk of poverty ranges from 19.9% ​​in large cities to 30% in small towns and suburbs and reaches the spectacular level of 50.5% in rural areas .

Sex education? No, toilets

The Bucharest Chamber of Deputies has voted in recent days – not without controversy – in favor of a law introducing sex education in schools. It will not have to be approved in the Senate so it will now be enacted. There were 224 votes in favor, one vote against and 49 abstentions. Sex education, however, is taught under the name of “health education.” An amendment to the initial bill desired by some parties. USR MP Simina Tulbure criticizes the change: “We need to talk about sex education, not health. We need to talk about sex in a country that is number one for single mothers. We are in a bad state in the EU rankings also due to domestic violence ”. On the other hand, the deputy Alin Coleşa, from the AUR, opposed the implementation of (sexual) health education in the classes attended by the youngest, stating that it should rather be encouraged boys and girls to reduce the need for attraction. The rhetoric of some members of the Bucharest Parliament often makes us think of the times of the communist regime, when the word sex was not used publicly. Now, 30 years after the fall of the communist regime, the law will refer to “health education.”

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis had blocked the bill in June 2020 because, in his view, by conditioning the teaching of sex education in schools to the agreement of parents, it violated the constitution. The Constitutional Court, however, rejected the head of state’s objections and the text has been restarted with its parliamentary procedure. It was the Ministry of Education that proposed the compulsory schedule of health education but -for the individual student- only with the written permission of the parents. As in practice for religious hours. Currently, “health” hours are optional from the first year of primary school until the end of high school and are attended by only 9% of students.

The positions adopted by the Orthodox and Catholic Churches played an important role in the public debate on the new law. The Orthodox Church – 87% of Romania’s population is Orthodox Christian – insisted on the facultative character, declaring that the obligation would represent “an attack on the innocence of children, marking them for life.” For the Romanian Episcopal Conference (CER), however, compulsory sex education classes would have represented a violation of parental rights, guaranteed by the Romanian Constitution, and therefore Catholic religious representatives insisted on the written agreement of the Romanian pairs.

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