Disy, Akel and the Green Party on Monday accused Diko MP Nicolas Papadopoulos of deliberately attempting to scupper a bill which would introduce mandatory sex education in schools.
The matter is set to head to plenum this Thursday, but Papadopoulos sent a letter to House president Annita Demetriou asking for its delay. He outlined that due to the gravity of the topic at hand, Diko wished to have the opinion of the legal service to examine whether there was a question of unconstitutionality.
Disy, Akel and the Green party rubbished the claims, with Green’s MP Alexandra Attalidou saying the topic had been discussed at the committee with members of the legal service and ministry of education four times already.
She suggested the church may have had an influencing role in Papadopoulos’ move.
“This is a highly political matter. Some members of Diko do not want this bill to pass. I have to admit this could even be due to the intervention of some members of the church.
“This is truly a shame, because in Cyprus we have a high number of sexually abused children,” Attalidou noted.
Akel MP Irene Charalambides suggested the absence of Diko MPs Pavlos Mylonas and Christiana Erotokritou from the committee session was deliberate, though Charalambides said Erotokritou could be justified as she chairs the House finance committee.
The bill, submitted by the Green party, seeks to introduce a holistic, mandatory sex education in schools and has two core points. Firstly, it no longer leaves sex education up to teachers’ discretion. The class will be taught from pre-primary school up until the final year of lyceum.
Currently, sex education exists as a class but “if they want to teach it, they teach it. If they don’t want to, they don’t,” Charalambides said.
“I truly don’t understand what this letter is about. If Mr. Papadopoulos disagrees with the bill then he and his party can express their disagreements during plenum. But I will not accept the notion of asking for opinions again, after the ministry has attended so many sessions.
“Everyone attended the committee and shared their opinions. If Diko MPs had attended too and not opted to be absent, they would know very well what the legal service and education ministry said about this,” Charalambides said.
Attalidou said the bill has been pending since the previous parliamentary term and therefore deputies had all the time in the world to assess the bill.
Earlier this month, children’s rights commissioner Despo Michaelidou said sex education needs to have a place in teaching as part of a broader government strategy to protect children from sexual abuse.