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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 11:09 am 
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One in 10 Italian women believe kissing can get you pregnant
28 May 2014

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(ANSA) - Lisbon - One third of Italian women aged 20-30 believe you can't get pregnant the first time you have sex, one in 10 believes you can get pregnant by kissing, and 7% believe Coca-Cola can act as a spermicide, according to data presented Wednesday at the 13th European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC) congress in the Portuguese capital.

The survey of 9,000 women in 17 countries, of whom 500 were in Italy, was conducted by GFK Healthcare industry researchers for the ESC, which is made up of doctors and nurses.

In more alarming data from the Bel Paese, 31% of female respondents believe coitus interruptus is an effective method of birth control and one in five respondents said she has never discussed contraception with her doctor. This, said Italian Obstetrics and Gynecology Society President Paolo Scollo, is why too many Italian teenagers resort to abortion. "They lack information, and this is why we are going to present the health minister with a comprehensive sex and birth control education project, beginning in middle school. This has to become a stable part of the curriculum," said Scollo.

Congress participants also learned about the world's smallest intrauterine device (IUD), which was rolled out in Italy on Tuesday. It lasts three years and delivers very low doses of birth-prevention hormones.

Source: ANSA.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 7:43 pm 
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Russian Sex Coaches Tout Orgasms as Means To Prevent Divorce
By Allison Quinn
June 15, 2014

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Andy Wright / Flickr The aim of seminars is to make people "unforgettable in the bedroom" by teaching them to read their partners better.

Erect rubber penises decorate the tables, and diagrams of male anuses form the room's perimeter.

But no, this is not a sex toy shop — it's a new trend taking off in Russia: sex coaching. Why? Because "we all love to have sex. But the harsh reality is that not everyone knows how to do it," one prominent sex coach, Alex May, says in a video address on his official website.

Popular among both women and men — albeit offering a drastically different approach to each target audience — sex coaching seeks to instill students with more confidence in the bedroom. But with prices for seminars ranging from 4,500 rubles ($130) to 18,000 rubles ($523), it is unclear whether the industry is raking in big profits by empowering its clientele, or by preying on people's insecurities.

To get to the bottom of this, a Moscow Times reporter attended one such seminar offered by the Sex.RF training center in northern Moscow late last week. The seminar, titled "A Brilliant Male Orgasm," ran for 2 1/2 hours. It involved a great deal of hands-on practice with large rubber penises.

The audience consisted of a motley crew of women: from young fashionable women in their 20s to older women who said their husbands had given them gift certificates. Some students continued blushing the whole time. Many of them were loyal customers that had attended several other seminars at the training center. Perhaps in a bid to break the ice, the instructor made a joke about the inevitable imperfections of the male penis: "Some of them are slanted to the right, some to the left; some are never straight," she said.

No topic was too taboo to be discussed, and the women attending seemed relieved to hear the instructor speak so openly about male genitalia. As for ways to please your partner, she offered dozens of different strategies, noting at one point that "this one works well in the movie theater."

Rather than repulsing the participants, the instructor's frank and at times lewd comments only seemed to put them more at ease, which created an atmosphere of female bonding. But the instructor, who declined to be named, also made some questionable claims: if you do this, your partner will fall in love with you; if you do this, your husband will be loyal and will not cheat.

Continuing along this line of logic, she said such prostate massages could be instrumental to a man's faithfulness. "He may immediately offer to live with you or get married," she said to a room full of women, some of whose eyes shone a little brighter at that remark. "Think about it, he may have the chance to cheat, and he'll be sitting there in a hotel with this girl and then he'll just realize: wait a minute, why would I do this? I'll get one night with this girl but then lose my wife [who gives prostate massages]."

Yekaterina Lyubimova, another sex coach and founder of the Sex.RF training center, echoed that idea, saying after the seminar that the training had helped some women avoid divorce. "Many of our clients note that their relationships get a sort of 'second wind,' some manage to avoid an impending divorce, some of the girls who have been with their partner for a long time finally get a marriage proposal, and some say their family life is improved," said Lyubimova, a young blonde emanating confidence.

But Alexander Poleyev, a psychotherapist and sexologist who has been a driving force behind the development of Russia's sex-therapy scene, said "good sexual relations don't give such guarantees." In some cases, such happy endings may actually happen, he said, but the real purpose behind sex coaching is to make people less shy in talking about sex — something which greatly helps those who really suffer from sexual dysfunction. "On the whole, it's a very positive thing that we now have sex coaching in Russia," Poleyev said, adding that "it did not come easily."

Lyubimova of Sex.RF said the industry is rapidly developing and will likely continue to do so for years to come, as it fulfills a crucial need: that of civilized training for sexual relationships. "Today we still see with our fellow citizens a sort of illiteracy in issues of intimate hygiene, which in itself speaks of more serious problems in terms of family life," Lyubimova said.

The company's first training center was opened in Moscow in 2012. By now the company has branched out to six different cities, with thousands of students attending each one. Other companies offer sex coaching in Russia, but Sex.RF has a monopoly on the business. The other big player in the niche is Smart Style, which offers professional certification through a U.S.-based sex coach university.

Lyubimova also attributed high demand for sex training to the fact that social networks, movies and television have created the illusion of the perfect woman, leaving most women feeling insecure. "Thanks to the growth of social networks and the film industry, many women get the feeling that they are the only ones with problems in their sex lives. The life of stars on the covers of glossy journals and beautiful posts [on social networks] by their friends about wonderful family life only strengthen this feeling," she said.

While seeking to combat women's feelings of inadequacy, however, it is safe to say that the industry is also making a pretty penny off them. Eight other women attended the seminar visited by this Moscow Times reporter, with each of them paying 4,500 rubles for admission. The training center offers such seminars every day of the week, so even if turnout is low, there is plenty of money to be made.

Sexual Mastery

Sex coaching for men is equally profitable, with Russia's most prominent sex coach, Alex May, charging 18,000 rubles a head for a 16-hour training session on "Sexual Mastery."

May comes off as the Tyler Durden of sex coaching, a younger man spouting off macho platitudes to a room full of men eagerly nodding, in awe because they believe May is privy to some secret of the universe they have been woefully ignorant of until this point. "Open up any book about sex, find the author's photograph, take a look at him, at his age, and ask yourself: 'When is the last time this fat face had sex, how many partners has he had and what can he possibly know about the subject?" May was cited as saying by one Russia journalist who attended his seminar. "The quality of your life in bed is a reflection of your life as a whole," is among the aphorisms May favors.

Why does May think he is an authority on the matter? Because, apart from being a trained psychologist, sexologist and sex coach, May says he has had more then 200 sexual partners, each of whom taught him something uniquely useful. The aim of May's seminars is to make people "unforgettable in the bedroom," he says on his website, by teaching them to read their partners better.

A request for comment sent to May remained unanswered by the time of publication.

Sergei Mukhamedov, a reporter for NedoSMI who attended a seminar and wrote of his findings, said May really had the effect of a cult-like figure on his audience. "The phrase 'mind blown' came out of the mouth of every man who went out for a break. Even those who said they had quit smoking suddenly started smoking," Mukhamedov wrote on LiveJournal. "The things we heard about women were so unexpected and so incompatible with the normal male way of thinking. That's what Alex calls it — a change in the fabric of consciousness," Mukhamedov said.

Male sex coaching differs from female coaching in various ways, but one stark difference, according to Mukhamedov, was the seriousness in the room. "There was almost no laughter, all the men are diligently taking notes in their notepads," Mukhamedov wrote.

Poleyev of the Sexology Academy said May's seminars served the same purpose as all the others: to remove the taboo of talking about sex. But he added that no one would attend such seminars if they didn't have some sort of problem in the bedroom. The real focus, he said, should be on getting comprehensive, mandatory sex education in Russian schools, a move which might reduce the need for sex coaching. Currently, Russian schools offer little to no sex education, a fact which has come under heavy criticism.

The powerful Russian Orthodox Church has fought against the introduction of sex education for years, even summoning State Duma deputies in 2009 over European Union-backed plans for mandatory sex education as part of Russia's signing the European Social Charter. The church managed to derail those plans.

Many Russian officials have also spoken out against sex education. Last fall, children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov came out firmly against implementing sex education, saying Russian literature would serve just as well in teaching children about sex.

Source: Moscow Times.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:06 pm 
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Walking Vagina Turns Heads in Vilnius
July 8, 2014

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The vagina also made an appearance on the nearby Palanga Beach.

A giant pink vagina walking around the streets of Lithuania's capital turned a lot of heads and caused quite a clamor, so to say, during a weekend event intended to break down taboos about female health problems as part of a "Healthy Vagina World Tour."

The vagina, an almost body-length costume worn by an activist apparently undeterred by the summer sun, was accompanied by women handing out brochures with advice about vaginal health in downtown Vilnius.

But some locals were not too keen about the huge vagina, with its protruding red lips and fist-sized clitoris, parading through the city's streets on Sunday, a national holiday celebrating the coronation of a revered Lithuanian king. "Maybe I'm too conservative, but this action shocked me," a local mother told the Delfi news outlet. "I understand the goal of the event, but the choice of time and place is wrong. July 6 is a statehood day, and in Vilnius there are a lot of people with children on the streets."

Organizer Jurgita Steponaviciute told the media that a weekend was chosen so that a large number of women would see the event, and that it was just a coincidence it was a holiday. She said that young children probably just thought the giant vagina was some kind of "animal."

The "Healthy Vagina World Tour" has already held similar events in Germany, Israel, Portugal, Scotland and Croatia, according to its website.



Source: Moscow Times.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2014 5:38 am 
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Image from LoveLife.ch website. Photo: Screenshot

'Bare skin' video hails sex without regrets
by Malcolm Curtis
12 May 2014

The Swiss public health office on Monday launched a “love life” campaign aimed at combatting the spread of AIDS, backed by a website with a racy video and messages encouraging safe sex.

The multilingual campaign features brief graphic images of men and women and same-sex couples making love, while singing about having “no regrets” over what they are doing. “I love my body,” says one message in English, showing a couple in the throes of love-making.

“That’s why I protect it . . . from sexually transmitted infections like HIV: if I’m single, cheat on my partner or if a relationship has just ended, I use condoms and play by the safer sex rules.”

Different sections of the website address heterosexuals, gays and lesbians. A short film directed by Martin Aamund reveals “lots of bare skin” and is designed to get viewers “in the mood for worry-free passion”, according to information on the site. “The campaign shows that enjoying life and your body needn’t cause you worry — because if you keep yourself safe, you won’t have any regrets.”

The public awareness project was unveiled at the same time as figures showing the number of new cases of the AIDS virus HIV in Switzerland dropped eight percent to 575 in 2013 from the previous year.

The statistics, issued by the public health office, showed that while the number of cases declined last year, they remained higher than two years ago when 557 were recorded. The incidence also remains well above the targeted ceiling of 350 cases a year by 2017 set by the government's prevention campaign.

To check out the “love Life” website, click here.

The online campaign uses the hashtag #LoveLifeNoRegrets. It encourages those interested in finding out more to search for “Love Life” content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube and Instagram, where they can discuss related issues.



Source: The Local Switzerland.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 5:40 am 
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In terms of sex ed, Swiss schools do their own thing
By Susan Vogel-Misicka in Basel
June 20, 2013

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Sexual education expert Yasmin Roth makes her own models of genitalia from fabrics.

Spirits are high at a Basel secondary school: today they’re going to talk about sex.

Whether it’s a typical lesson is hard to say as Switzerland has no federal guidelines on the topic – a problem, say many, and one that may not be resolved soon.

In this particular Basel suburb, it kicks off with a game resulting in giggles and some pink cheeks. Given a word on a card, each student has to define it without actually using the word. “This gives us a chance to see what terminology the students are familiar with,” explains Cécile Notter of the Basel branch of AIDS-Hilfe. She coordinates a team of educators specially trained to visit schools in the region and explain the key points of HIV prevention.

Having had some basic education already, this morning’s 13-15-year-olds are relatively knowledgeable. However, there is some uncertainty about the meaning of clitoris, Viagra and quickie. Asked about the last one, a boy answers: “It’s when you have sex with your clothes on”. Well, not necessarily, says Notter, giving a brief explanation before her male colleague whisks the lads into another room for a boys-only session. Once they’re gone, a girl asks for more clarification on quickies before they get on with the main subject for the day: safe sex.

No formal system

According to the non-governmental organisation Sexual Health Switzerland, it’s problematic that Switzerland has no federal guidelines on what subjects must be covered and at what age. “The system is not well-formalised – it’s generally up to the schools to decide what they want to do. Kids from around 12 usually have or have already had some kind of sex education,” Sexual Health’s Rainer Kamber told swissinfo.ch, noting that Swiss schools were doing “a really good job overall”. But “usually” and “overall” still aren’t good enough, according to the organisation, which recommends that Switzerland legally guarantee equal access to comprehensive sex education to all children and adolescents.

Kamber said that there were major differences in how the subject was handled from school to school, canton to canton, and especially between the French- and German-speaking parts of the country. For example, sex ed tends to be more formally organised in the French-speaking cantons, and it starts at an earlier age. In western Switzerland, even kindergarten pupils (aged four to six) learn basic information about the differences between boys and girls and where babies come from – as well as how to deal with unwanted touching. “In principle we would like mandatory sex education, but the question of when to start is really something that specialists should answer, and not NGOs,” Kamber said.

An institute that specialises in answering this and other questions is the Competence Centre for Sexual Education and Schools. But it’s going to close at the end of June 2013.

    Mixed models

    “Here in Switzerland we have a lot of experience with different models of sex education. Sometimes it’s the classroom teacher, sometimes an external educator, or a combination. We definitely have the best results with mixed models. That has to do with the fact that especially teenagers don’t like to talk with their teachers about sex. It’s too private, so they won’t ask certain questions to the teachers that they see every day – especially if they don’t have a good relationship with that teacher. So here, the external experts have a really important position to fill – mainly one of objectivity and neutrality.”
    – Rainer Kamber, Sexual Health Switzerland

Closure of competence centre

Established by the Federal Office of Public Health in 2006, the competence centre serves as a national resource in terms of training teachers and recommending age-appropriate educational materials. It’s based at the University of Teacher Education Central Switzerland (PHZ) in Lucerne.

Yet controversy stirred up by conservative groups resulted in the health office withdrawing its mandate and funds, declaring that sex education fell under the jurisdiction of the individual cantons and not the federal authorities. However, the office also said that the centre was doing a good job, an opinion shared by Cécile Notter and Rainer Kamber.

Titus Bürgisser, head of the centre as well as of the PHZ’s department of health promotion, knows that sex education is a sensitive subject and that people have different opinions about how to go about it. What he can’t understand is why anybody would want to forbid sex education altogether. “They’re making the topic more of a taboo, and that’s certainly not in the interest of the children or conducive to their protection. To forbid sex education is the worst way to go about it,” Bürgisser told swissinfo.ch.

    Regional differences

    “In German-speaking Switzerland, school teachers have more responsibility and they can get support from an external expert if desired. It depends on the teacher’s level of engagement and how intensely he wants to cover the topic. In French-speaking Switzerland, the task has been delegated to these external educators, who will visit a class two or three times – but often on an isolated basis. We’re trying to foster a more mixed model."
    – Titus Bürgisser, University of Teacher Education Central Switzerland

Petition underway

“The closure of the centre was a success for us,” said Dominik Müggler, father of five and a member of an interest group trying to block mandatory sex education for kindergarten and primary school pupils.

Called “Yes to protection from sexualisation in kindergarten and primary school”, the initiative would legally forbid sex education for children under nine and make it voluntary between the ages of nine and 12. The proposal also calls for mandatory biology education from age 12, with a focus on reproduction and development. “We’re not against sex education, but we are against it being mandatory for children as young as four years old. Nobody should be confronted with sex-related content against their will – and certainly not at this young age,” Müggler told swissinfo.ch. “We are in favour of educational measures to prevent child abuse, but without sex education content and without ideology.”

The group started collecting signatures in June 2012 and had 70,000 as of June 2013. So far they’ve gotten the most support in the cities of Fribourg, Basel and Sion. They have until late December 2013 to gather the 100,000 necessary to put the initiative to a nationwide vote.

“If it’s successful, then many children would either not receive sex education or would be educated exclusively by their parents, and we know that many parents don’t talk about sex with their children, or they’re highly biased,” pointed out Kamber. Notter finds that if it’s not being discussed at home, then there is all the more need for sex education at school. “Sex education should be a part of school because of the children’s rights to equal opportunities and age-appropriate information – even if parents also want to cover the topic at home,” Notter said.

The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education has no single recommendation for how schools should handle the subject. While the French-speaking cantons already have a lesson plan, the German-speaking ones are still working on one. A first draft will be presented on June 28.

What size?

Back in Basel, the 90-minute session is nearly over. The girls are putting condoms on wooden “penises” and the latex barely stretches over the extra-large models. “If you’re supposed to carry a condom around just in case, how do you know what size?” asks one girl worriedly. There’s a knock on the door when the boys are ready to re-join the girls, but Notter calls out, “Not yet!”.

One fellow bursts in anyway, raises his eyebrows, and quickly retreats once he sees what his female classmates are up to. Indeed, it seems that having a mix of joint and separate classes makes sense at this age.

Sexually active

A 2009 study commissioned by the Federal Commission for Child and Youth Affairs found that young people today are not more sexually active than 20 years ago. Among 1,500 people aged 12 to 20 surveyed, more than half were sexually active by the age of 17. Of this group, most girls had had their first sexual encounter at the age of 16 and boys at the age of 15. Most girls said they learned about sex from their peers (27 per cent) and magazines (18 per cent), while boys found out information from the Internet (30 per cent) and friends (26 per cent). Overall, only 13 per cent of boys and girls said they learned about sex from school and eight per cent from their parents.

Links

AIDS-Hilfe Basel (German)
Initiative website (German, French, Italian)
Competence centre (German, French, Italian)
Sexual Health Switzerland

Source: SwissInfo.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2014 3:34 pm 
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Oral Sex Classes A Hit In Moldova
2 July 2014

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It's not the sort of thing one sees on the curriculum at the Open University but students in Moldova are being offered classes teaching them oral sex.

Student Ruth Seleznyova, 23, is among those who signed up for the extraordinary course in Kishinau. "I learned a lot," she said. "Why not teach people how to pleasure their men? I think it is a good idea."

Nicknamed the 'blowjob academy' by locals, the classes are conducted by psychologists and sociologists all younger than 45 teaching groups of 14. The classes are offered by an organization from Russia and cost 50 pounds for three and-a-half hours. Those who want to remain totally anonymous can get a personal training which costs 200 pounds.

Organizers say that women aged between 25 and 45 are the most frequent customers. Seventy per cent of them pay for the course with their own money and the rest of them say their partners pay. Women can learn "the art of oral sex" and other tricks to improve their sex life. Only women older than 18 are allowed.

Besides oral sex classes, there are also erotic massage lessons. For them, clients are provided with mats, cushions and blankets. For the oral sex classes women sit on desks facing a mirror and practice with dildos. Organizers say the number of women who want to attend these classes is high. Men are strictly forbidden as is talking on the phone or using cameras. Polyana Meskya, 33, who attended the course, said: "I went with a couple of friends and we had a great laugh. We didn't take it too seriously."

Source: Austrian Times.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 6:04 pm 
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Greece: ministry plans to remove sex education from school
24 September 2014

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(ANSAmed) - ATHENS - The Greek Education Ministry plans to remove sex education from the school curriculum, according to reports.

The decision is based on a recommendation by the ministry's Institute of Educational Policy (IEP) to scrap the chapter on human reproduction from biology textbooks used at first year high schools across the country, Ta Nea daily said. The Greek Association of Bioscientists has issued a statement criticizing the decision, the newspaper said.

Source: ANSAmed.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2015 1:26 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 3:33 am 
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Sweden gets cheeky in safe sex toilet campaign
June 9, 2015

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A photo released by Magic Circle communication on June 9, 2015 shows a sticker warning young travellers against sexually transmitted diseases on a toilet seat at the Vaesteras airport, in Stockholm (AFP Photo/Patrik Lindkvist)

Stockholm (AFP) - Swedish health care authorities are warning young travellers this summer against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by posting cheeky messages on airport toilet seats, a project leader said on Tuesday.

Starting June 15, travellers using the loos at airports in central and southern Sweden, including Skavsta airport outside Stockholm, will be greeted with a message on the toilet seat that reads: "You won't catch chlamydia here. You'll catch it after the beach party on Rhodes. Take care of yourself this summer. Use a condom."

"We wanted to rely on a new way of sending out a message. If we were to display the information in the ordinary spots, we would probably not get the same kind of attention," Caroline Lundh, one of the people in charge of the campaign, told AFP.

The campaign, named "Ligg lugnt" in Swedish ("Get laid, get safe"), was being financed by eight counties and regional councils. Lundh said it was aimed at 20 to 30-year-olds heading off on holiday who rarely use condoms, and who are the main group at risk of contracting the venereal disease chlamydia. Condoms are expected to be dispensed free of charge in the airports.

When returning from their holidays, travellers will be met by a life-size picture of a young woman in a short dress holding a sign reading: "You didn't bring back an STD in your luggage, did you? Take a test if you're worried."

According to campaign organisers, around 38,000 Swedes contracted HIV, gonorrhoea or chlamydia last year. They did not provide specific statistics for each disease.

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:13 pm 
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Sex Ed classes spark Russia's children's ombudsman's outrage
November 5, 2015

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Denis Abramov / Vedomosti - Russian children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov.

Russian children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov has demanded that the Siberian city of Tyumen stop giving sexual education classes in schools, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Thursday.

Astakhov asked the regional governor’s office to take measures against the classes, calling them an “amateur performance."

The ombudsman's move came after a similarly outraged letter from an NGO called the Tyumen Parents Committee. On Oct. 30, the committee published an article saying the lessons called “A Spermatozoid Journey” for fourth-grade pupils were inappropriate. The lessons were aimed at explaining to schoolchildren how the human reproductive system works, but the committee considered the classes “seductive” and “schizophrenic,” the article says.

Previously, the Tyumen Parents Committee had also complained about the lessons “Women's Hygiene and Physiology” and “Moral Aspects of Sexual Upbringing,” the ura.ru online news agency reported in October.

Source: Moscow Times.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:39 pm 
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Porn star Rocco Siffredi offers to teach sex in Italy's schools
December 23, 2015

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Italian actor Rocco Siffredi, pictured with adult-film colleagues Jade Laroche, Tarra White and Anna Polina in April 2011 in Cannes, has launched a petition demanding mandatory sex education in Italy's schools -- and offering himself as a teacher (AFP Photo/Sebastien Nogier)

Rome (AFP) - Porn star Rocco Siffredi, known as the "Italian stallion", has launched a petition demanding sex education become mandatory in Italy's schools and offered himself up as a teacher.

"I wanted to launch this appeal because sex is a magnificent thing," he wrote on the website that began collecting signatures on Tuesday. "I put forth my name and my experience, I make myself fully available to go into Italian schools and personally promote this initiative," the 51-year-old added.

Despite efforts stretching back over a century and dozens of legislative proposals, sex education is not part of the curriculum in Italy's schools.

The petition on change.org, addressed to Italian Education Minister Stefania Giannini, had gathered some 21,600 supporters by Wednesday. "Pornography should be entertainment, but due to lacking alternatives, it has become a means to learn, especially for young people," he said. "I have been doing my work for 30 years and I have acquired enough experience to guarantee that what I do is not sex education," he added.

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 11:31 am 
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Iceland closes gender gap but violence against women remains
By EGILL BJARNASON
12 December 2017

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) -- For nine years in a row, the World Economic Forum has ranked Iceland as having the world's smallest gender-equality gap, and for about as long gender studies professor Gyda Margret Petursdottir has been asked how the Nordic island nation became such a paradise for women.

Her reply: "It isn't." Iceland has a female prime minister and some of the world's strongest laws on workplace equality and equal pay. It also has one of Europe's highest per-capita levels of reported rapes, according to statistics agency Eurostat, although legal definitions differ from country to country, complicating comparisons.

A 2010 University of Iceland study found that 30 percent of Icelandic women aged 18 to 80 reported having been physically attacked by a man at least once, including 13 percent who reported suffering rape or attempted rape. Icelanders are experiencing a stark realization: Equal representation does not, by default, eliminate gender-based violence. Petursdottir said the "myth" that Iceland's record on gender equality makes it a safe haven for women is a distraction from the steps needed to fight systematic abuse. "Men need to find ways to change their ideas about masculinity," Petursdottir said. "That's the biggest challenge now."

The sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men in Hollywood, politics and beyond, and the "Me Too" campaign launched by women speaking out against abuse, have reached this volcanic island below the Arctic Circle. Hundreds of women in Icelandic politics, entertainment and academia recently signed a pledge against sexual harassment and urged male colleagues to change their behavior.

More than 40 percent of lawmakers in Iceland's parliament, the Althingi, are women. Last month left-wing leader Katrin Jakobsdottir became prime minister in a coalition government - Iceland's second female leader in the last decade. Her appointment is another point on the Global Gender Gap index for a country regarded as a champion of gender equality. The index measures life expectancy, educational opportunities, political representation, equal pay and other factors - but not gender-based violence.

Feminists argue that Iceland's star ranking masks continuing violence, harassment and everyday sexism - and that fixing the problem will need a transformation in the way men - and women - think and behave. In a series of 137 anonymous accounts from women in politics recently published in local media, one female legislator illustrated everyday sexism with a story of a male opponent who complimented her looks right before she took the podium in an attempt to throw her off-topic.

Andres Ingi Jonsson, a lawmaker for the Left Green Movement, said the example shows how parliament, even more than other workplaces, risks becoming a harmful environment for women, since disarming opponents is a key part of politics. "The basic tools we use can be influenced by sexually degrading language, and we need to remove that from the toolbox," said Jonsson, who is among a group of male parliamentarians seeking to get men to become actively engaged in promoting gender equality.

The group successfully petitioned the speaker of parliament to host a workshop in February during which Iceland's 63 legislators have been invited to openly discuss sexual harassment in the workplace. "It won't be an easy day," Jonsson said. He is optimistic that everyone will attend, even though some will approach the workshop with a more open mind than others. "We have to be ready to open our hearts a bit," Jonsson said.

Iceland may be far from perfect, but its politicians have taken gender equality seriously. Icelandic law requires private companies to have at least 40 percent women on their boards and offers men parental leave equal to women. Starting next year, the Equal Pay Law will audit companies to prove that they are paying men and women the same for comparable work.

There are indications of a change in social attitudes and an unwillingness to turn a blind eye toward sexual harassment. Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, has a vibrant nightlife scene, and dozens of bars and clubs have tried to create a safer atmosphere by putting up posters urging guests to notify staff if they feel harassed. Activist Helga Lind Mar said the scene has changed noticeably from a few years ago. "We still have creeps," she said, sitting by Reykjavik's bar- and-restaurant-lined Laugavegur Street, famous for its long party nights. "But they are more afraid to be called out on their behavior."

And educators have started to think about how to raise a generation of non-sexist adults. At Reykjavik's Borgarholtsskoli high school, teacher Hanna Bjorg Vilhjalmsdottir oversees lively discussions in her Introduction to Gender Studies class. The aim of the class is to get young adults to notice everyday discrimination, stereotyping and harmful messages, she said. When Vilhjalmsdottir, a pioneer of the concept, pitched the idea to school administrators 10 years ago "they were extremely skeptical," she said. Now versions of the course are taught in 27 of Iceland's 33 high schools.

Student Tinna Karen Victorsdottir said the course has changed her perception of life more than any other class. She said she often brings class discussions to her family's dinner table and shares course readings and videos with her parents. Over time, her parents have changed their behavior, too. "My dad has taken on totally new house chores," she said. "I guess it inspired him to see me this eager."

Source: AP

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