“Usually, information about sex is available on the street, from friends and older guys who are experienced in this. Some of my friends buy newspapers and magazines to read about sex, others use the internet [for information],” said Chitadze.
His mother Irma Chitadze believes that sex education plays an important role in the psychological development of a child, and this should not be ignored by the education system. “Sometimes Andro has many questions about this issue and I’d feel better if the psychologist would explain it to him in more professional and understandable language. I’m all for sex education at schools, but the methods should be well-thought-out,” she argued.
At issue is the fact that there is no sex education on the curriculum in Georgian schools. According to Simon Janashia, the Director of National Curriculum and Assessment Centre at the Georgian Ministry of Education and Science, says there is no appropriate subject on the curriculum that could integrate sex education. “There is some information about this in the biology course, but there is very little,” claimed Janashia. According to him, the main reason why sex education has not been incorporated into the curriculum is widespread opposition to the idea across Georgian society.
“Most of the parents at our school are against sex education for different reasons, but the major reason is religion. Our religion, Orthodox Christianity, forbids this kind of knowledge being given to students,” Irma Chitadze said.
Marina Kochloshvili, a mother of three young children, argues that sex education should not be in the curriculum. “The curriculum is not designed to prepare students for this subject, that’s why I don’t think that there is room for sex education in Georgian education system,” Kochloshvili said.
Meanwhile, the effects of this information vacuum are well known to the government. Data from the statistics department of Georgia show that the number of abortions among teenage girls has increased in recent years. In 2008, there were a total of 22,100 abortions according to official figures, and 1359 of them were for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19. Six girls under the age of 15 also had abortions. In 2007, the number of abortions among teenage girls was 1037.
Child psychotherapist Zaza Vardiashvili argues that sex education not only contributes to a lower number of abortions but also decreases the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers. The best option, in her view, is for parents to discuss sexual issues with their children, themselves. However, she doesn’t feel that Georgian parents are ready for this: “They simply don’t know how, or they feel too ashamed to speak about this issue with their children. I think it would be good if psychologists trained the parents,” said Vardiashvili.
Vardiashvili points that there are different opinions within the psychology profession in Georgia regarding the issue of sex education in schools. Some psychologists advocate that sex education should be integrated into related subjects on the curriculum, while others believe that sex education should be a separate course. “I think that a school psychologist should lead this course for children in the age groups ten, eleven, twelve and thirteen. At the beginning of the course, they should cover the anatomical differences between females and males as a preparation to discussing physical changes. Then, for students aged 11 to 12, they should teach about intimate relations between females and males and, at the age of 12-13, sexual hygiene.”
The only Georgian book on sex education, entitled “Joyful Speeches about Sex”, was published eleven years ago. The book’s publisher, Anna Chabashvili, director of the publishing house “Diogene”, remembers the wave of protests when the book was published. “People were calling and some came to our office demanding that we take the book off the shelves. It was a real scandal,” Chabashvili recalled.
One of the book’s authors, Tamar Lebanidze, is a professional psychologist. She claims that the book’s negative reception was due to the fact that “Here, people see danger where there is no real danger. This problem was caused by the lack of information [about sex] at the time. Most of [those expressing negative opinions] did not even read this book. However, we also received some positive calls. People were in a hurry to express their opinions, both negative and positive.” Lebanidze also added that the most forceful opinions came from Orthodox Christian parents.
The Chairman of the Education Center of the Patriarchy of Georgia, Episcopes Ioane, claims that the position of the Orthodox Church on sex education is not so rigid, but he does believe that the family should be responsible for educating children about sexual issues, not schools. “This information should be given to children on an individual basis… I think that there should be centers for the parents where they will be taught how to explain sex to their child, considering his or her individual characteristics,” Ioane said. According to him, an alternative to parents’ centers could be centers for children where they will get information about sex from an experienced child psychologist. “This person should take into the consideration the developmental level of each child at a particular age,” Ioane added.
The majority of Georgia’s population is Orthodox Christian, but there are minority religious communities. Despite their diverse views on faith, there seems to be a consensus about preventing sex education in schools. However, some Georgian Catholics, for example, believe that sex education is important factor in preventing abortion.
Tsitsino Khitarishvili, a Catholic, works at the Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani Institute of Theology, Philosophy, Culture and History in Tbilisi. Khitarishvili believes that sex education is an important element in family planning. “We are against abortion, and sex education will provide students with information that may decrease the number of abortions. People need knowledge [about sex] before they begin having it,” argued Khitarishvili. The Georgian Catholic Society has a center for sex education in Kutaisi but this is only for adults eighteen years and older. “The trainings there inform young people about sex. I think it would be good if there were the same centers for teenagers under the age of eighteen,” Khitarishvili said.
Iasin Aliev is an Imam at Tbilisi’s Juma mosque. Aliev believes the authorities do not have the right to put sex education on the curriculum in schools where Muslim students study. “The Koran includes all important information about human relations,” Aliev said.
Shalva Tetruashvili, the Chairman of the Jewish Sephardic Organization in Tbilisi, argues that the family should educate the child, but adds that “two three months before marriage, young people can go to the Rabbi and he will explain them about the issues of relationship between man and woman.”