‘No sex ed please, we’re religious’
Following last month’s boycott of school lessons by thousands of Ontario Muslims and conservative Christians upset over a new sex education curriculum, Catholics in Rome took to the streets at the weekend to demonstrate against gay unions and the teaching of gender theories in schools.
According to this report, the protest was sparked Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s bid to push a civil union bill through parliament. The Italian senate is currently examining the bill, which Renzi wants to see go to a vote in the coming weeks. He wants legislation enacted before the end of July.
The call for Italy to keep pace with its Western European neighbours on the issue has grown stronger since Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of gay marriage last month.
But rights activists warn it will be no mean feat for the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party to find allies across the political spectrum, blaming an excessive influence of the Catholic clergy on the political class.
Holding aloft banners reading “The family will save the world” and “Let’s defend our children”, a sea of people crammed into the San Giovanni square near the Italian capital’s historic centre to support “family values”.
The square, which can hold an estimated 300,000 people, was overflowing with the young, elderly and parents with toddlers, an AFP photographer said, with many more demonstrators spilling into nearby streets. Organisers for their part said one million people took part. Italian police never provide figures for demos.
Said one of the demonstators, 41-year-old doctor Giuseppe Ripa:
In my children’s schools they are talking about families made up of two fathers or two mothers, without asking parents’ permission. It’s dangerous and wrong.
Massimo Gandolfini, spokesman for the “Defend our children!” committee, added.
We are asking for families based on marriage be respected, and stressing the central role parents play. We forcefully reject the attempt to sneak into the curriculum projects which aim to destroy children’s sexual identities.
This echoes what was being said about sex education in Ontario by an alliance of Muslims and Christians.
According to this report, five years ago, when then-premier Dalton McGuinty abandoned much the same curriculum, conservative Christians were generally considered the culprits or heroes, depending on one’s standpoint. And they’re still on the warpath against the curriculum, which with a few tweaks is finally set to go into effect for the next school year.
But the school boycott “is a multicultural affair”, and the most stunning absenteeism numbers reportedly come from the Muslim community, which was not nearly so prominent in the 2010 debate.
Said David Rayside, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto:
There is a somewhat stronger current of what we might call family traditionalism among Muslims than among most other groups (although not more so than among evangelical Protestants), especially around sexuality and sexual diversity.
But in the main, their complaints are similar to those of other social conservatives. And that’s hardly surprising, as Rayside says:
The vast majority of Canadian Muslims are first generation, and they come from very traditional parts of the world.
Many of the objections to the updated curriculum have been mounted on religious grounds, according to this report. Opponents have argued that the new programme, which will teach students about concepts including gender identity, sexual orientation and masturbation, does not align with their values and is not appropriate for school-age children.
Sihu Yahaira, who withdrew her three children from school for the week-long boycott, said gender issues are particularly at odds with her Christian faith.
God created only two genders, and they want to teach that there’s more than two genders. That’s wrong. For us, it’s against our beliefs.