Parliament on Friday voted to introduce mandatory sex education in schools, in a session that House President Annita Demetriou said will go down in history for the low level the discussion reached.
The law passed with 39 votes in favour, four against from far-right Elam and independent MP Andreas Themistocleous. Diko’s eight deputies abstained.
The session was rife with back-handed digs and furore surrounding the law. Elam went all in, with its leader Christos Christou chiding Demetriou who intervened when he went over time in his speech. Christou told her she needed to respect the party because it was thanks to Elam’s votes that she became House President.
An infuriated Demetriou hit back saying “I owe you nothing. I do not owe anyone anything and your words are offensive.”
Themistocleous said whichever hand it was that authored the law it “was guided by a diseased brain” and “we are living in a porn-fuelled and gay storm.”
“The law is nothing but an abomination. It is disgusting, deplorable and sad. We will teach children that it’s ok for two women to kiss each other, and for men the same. We will teach them that two women or two men can have a child.”
“You can’t just grab a child and teach them whatever you want. They’ll teach kids that there are 64 genders, about gender fluidity. So that Kostakis was born a boy and then became Mariyoulla.”
Akel’s Aristos Damianou interfered saying parliament’s podium should not be a place for anyone to spew out discriminatory rhetoric, with Themistocleous inviting anyone who didn’t like what they hear to get out.
Seeking to explain what sex education actually entailed, Green’s MP Alexandra Attalidou later shared a screenshot of what the law sought to offer. It aims to teach children they are never at fault if they are sexually abused, knowing how to identify abuse, where to turn for help and trust their instinct if a situation is making them uncomfortable. The aim is to give children the tools they need to make responsible decisions about their lives, the document explains.
Nonetheless, she said parliament as an institution was being dragged through the mud and those poisoning children are the ones marginalising and stigmatising members of society with a hate-filled rhetoric.
Elam’s MP Sotiris Ioannou called the law vague and if the goal was really to protect children, then strict laws should be implemented on castrating rapists and paedophiles. “Away from propaganda and hands off our children.” Linos Papayiannis, also with Elam said evidence showed countries that introduced sex education did not have a reduction in sexual abuse.
Leader and MP of the Green Party Charalambos Theopemtou, who had tabled the bill said the matter has been discussed since 2019. In his speech before plenum, he said having worked as a teacher for 35 years, he had seen a lot and felt the youth had been completely abandoned so it was time to change a few things.
“I don’t understand all these problems that began over the past few days, I feel it’s an attempt to stop the vote.”
Meanwhile, Diko MP Nicolas Papadopoulos said children should be educated about sex, but the law was “completely unconstitutional.” Parliament cannot be deciding what will be taught in schools and should the law head to Supreme Court to decide on its constitutionality, more time will be wasted, he said.
Papadopoulos earlier this week had called for the vote to be delayed, a move which Attalidou said was likely guided by the church. His request prompted the furore of other deputies who said the matter had been discussed at the House education committee four times and both the education ministry and legal service had opined on the matter.
Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou on Wednesday wrote to Demetriou, asking her to delay the vote on the bill. She responded saying the executive should not be involving in the legislative’s powers and any questions of constitutionality are dealt with by the attorney general.
“He doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he will be leaving his post in three months with a giant zero,” Akel MP and chairwoman of the House education committee Irene Charalambidou said referring to Prodromou.
Edek’s MP Kostis Efstathiou said although the party voted in favour of the law it still had some gaps which perhaps should have been addressed, but at least it was a beginning. He said those tasked with teaching the topic have a heavy responsibility to carry.
Disy MP Rita Superman said the process had been fully transparent and even though there may be some imperfections in the law, it should have been voted through a long time ago because young children go online and get the wrong information.
Accept LGBTI Cyprus later issued a statement saying the law had nothing to do with their community, and yet they were targeted once again.
“We do not tolerate any form of targeting against the LGBTI+ community from anyone. We are not a punching bag and will not be the easy victims for people to buy up votes.” It called on political parties to take a stance over what was said during parliament and on the attorney-general “to finally implement the law on hate speech.”