Croatia sued for promoting the natural family in its national school curriculum
What’s at Stake
- A country’s right to use a school curriculum in keeping with its cultural and religious background
- The right of parents to protect their children from harmful moral teachings and practices contrary to their beliefs
Croatia is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, so it makes sense that it wishes to provide its young people with an education that reflects the nation’s Christian heritage and values. One group, however, took exception to this approach, especially as it affected sexual education.
Croatia provides students with a comprehensive, integrated sex education programme which takes into consideration the country’s strong Christian background and the important role of the natural family. As part of this, it upholds marriage between a man and a woman as the norm and teaches abstinence rather than promoting contraception on a large scale.
These beliefs and values are shared by a large proportion of the Croatian population. This is reflected in the fact that over 85 per cent of Croatian parents chose this curriculum for their children. Although this programme was just one of many options for Croatia’s mandatory sex education, and so many parents chose this option, the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (“INTERIGHTS”) took exception to these views.
In October 2007, INTERIGHTS launched a case against Croatia before the European Committee of Social Rights. The group argued that Croatia was in breach of the European Social Charter for not providing comprehensive or adequate “sexual and reproductive health” education to children and young people. Among INTERIGHTS’ objections to Croatia’s curriculum were that “women are primarily portrayed as mothers who are responsible for raising children” and that “heterosexual relationships are presented as the ‘normal’ form of relationship.” The complaint also stated that “the elective Catholic religious teachings course discusses sexuality only in the context of marriage and reproduction, excludes accurate and objective information on condoms, contraception and abortion, and describes homosexuality as a ‘sinful’ form of sexuality.”
Alliance Defending Freedom provided legal support to the Croatian government, emphasizing the adequacy of Croatia’s sexual education and the right of parents to choose electives for their children in line with their Christian beliefs, including beliefs on marriage and sexuality. Senior Legal Counsel, Roger Kiska, also represented the organization that drafted the curriculum at the heart of the case.
The European Committee of Social Rights upheld the rights of both the country and its parents, concluding that Croatia was fully entitled to offer sexual education in the manner it had chosen.
Our Role in the Case
Alliance Defending Freedom provided legal support to the Croatian government and represented the organization that drafted the curriculum at the heart of the case. ADF International continues to support parents and governments around the world in their right to define curricula based on Judeo-Christian values.