Sweden is one of the most innovative countries when it comes to sexual education.
Sexual education in Swedish schools has been compulsory since 1955, mainly because there is virtually no opposition to it continuing, in fact, complaints are geared towards improving it, not getting rid of it.
As we can see, Sweden is not the only country with such ideas!
This is an image from a German sex ed book for kids from 1971.
Sexual education is seen as part in parcel to a healthy population, and since Sweden is also considered to have one of the best health care systems (free health care for all), the two really go hand in hand.
Abortions have been free since 1975 (and do not need parental permission), and contraception is quite cheap, while emergency contraception can be acquired over the counter.
Everyone who attends school has to also attend sex ed classes, which take place mainly in the 5 th , 6 th , 8 th and 9 th grades, although they are supposed to take place from age 6-19. The age of sexual consent in Sweden is 15 years.
The main purpose of sex ed in Sweden is to promote knowledge and openness instead of ignorance. Young people can learn about different ways to lead their sexual lives, and then be able to make their own, informed decisions. The school is careful not to impose any lifestyle choices on them.
Puberty, body development, love, self image, “the first time”, masturbation, condoms and preventive methods, gender, sexual orientation are some of the important topics on the sex ed menu.
Only some of them are tackled at the first stage, for obvious reasons, but most of them reoccur throughout one’s education.
Although the main focus of the education is to present facts about anatomy, sexual functions, sexual orientations, STDs, HIV/AIDS, abortion and contraceptives, it is crucial that students are able to talk openly about their issues. Students can learn what their fellow students, as well as teachers, think about sexuality. Making it easier for them to accept theirs.
What I found to be interesting is that one of the objectives, alongside preventing unwanted pregnancies, preventing STD’s, getting rid of gay and lesbian discrimination, is “loosening up gender stereotypes.” In this respect I think that Sweden’s sexual education can be considered groundbreaking.
As stated before, Sweden is a very well developed country, and the fact that it isn’t very large, allows it to concentrate on helping its populations, as well as those of other countries. Sweden has many times been on the forefront of positive change and attitudes.
Internationally through the UN, and not only, Sweden is very involved in efforts to further sexual education as well as gender and women’s rights all over world.
They have taken an active role in educating African men on the benefits of gender equality. As well as reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
I think that sexual education is very, very important for a societies well being. In the United States unfortunately many don’t share this view. It’s strange, as we can see the positive consequences of such a compulsory education, and none stemming from ignoring our sexualities.
Here we see an example of United States stance on sexual education and public health.
Here is a chart of teenage birth rates throughout the industrialized world, for 1998.
Sweden is in 4 th place, but you can easily find the US, just look at the very end.
Sweden spends about 17 million euros a year on HIV/AIDS and STD prevention.
There are also more resources allocated on the regional and local level, through Youth Services such as youth friendly clinics.
Schools aren’t the only places where youths can turn when they want to learn more.
NGO’s such as RFSU and RFSL, as well as HIV/AIDS counseling, and health services are ready to educate also. And all of them specialize in something different, for instance RFSL can focus on gay and lesbian rights, for a broader scope.
Unfortunatelly, study done in 1999 shows that more youths are engaging in sex “just for the fun of it,” and are using less condoms. Abortions and STD infections are on the rise.
Youths are leaving behind the tradition of sexual encounters for love and after maturity. It seems that Sweden’s sex ed curriculum needs some tuning up!
Maybe they should try incorporating these plush toys!! =)
“ Country Papers on Sex Education in Europe .” Federal Centre for Health Education, February 2007.