Home / Education / Armenia Needs to Implement Sex Education Curriculum in Schools: Study

Armenia Needs to Implement Sex Education Curriculum in Schools: Study

“I’m very strict when it comes to my daughter. The son I can be somewhat lenient with. We have to be strict with girls, in the midst of all the things going on around us today…” (Male focus group, Sevan)

How do Armenian parents treat their children during adolescence? Is girls’ upbringing usually different from that of boys? The Yerevan-based Women’s Resource Center non-profit conducted a study in January-June 2016 to find answers to these and other related questions. The study, entitled “Parents’ attitudes to adolescent development,” was carried out in the Armenian cities of Yerevan, Vanadzor, Armavir and Sevan.

In general, Armenian parents believe that adolescent girls need a stricter treatment since “straying from the right path” could have irreparable consequences for their future. The prevailing opinion among parents is that each gender has its own “God-given” nature, role, status and behavior.

Physical violence against boys during childhood was considered detrimental for a good upbringing by most women surveyed outside of Yerevan. “You can’t bring up a boy without beating him. A boy must be beaten. Girls are brought up in easier, softer ways,” one of the study participants said.

Preservation of virginity and a virtuous character is the parents’ main concern when it comes to adolescent girls. These “traits,” according to those surveyed, are essential to maintaining family honor. “It all starts with putting on lipstick… One thing leads to another. If you fail to catch the issue early and direct them onto the right path, the kids will get ruined. No, today it’s lipstick, tomorrow it’s some other thing… Everything starts in childhood. You have to watch the kid; you can’t let her out of your sight.”

The study also revealed that adolescent girls mainly communicate with their fathers through their mothers. “If something goes wrong, she immediately tells about it to her mother. She knows that it will eventually get to me.” (male participant with secondary education, Yerevan)

Issues related to sexual health and education, the researchers found, are mostly talked about with adolescents at a very superficial level; sexuality is not a common parent-child conversation topic. “I try to [acquaint them with the subject] in a playful manner, with hints and jokes… just like my mother did with me.” (male participant with higher education, Armavir)

According to the surveyed parents, discussing sexuality with girls is much easier; however, it is noteworthy that such conversations with adolescent girls are mostly of a controlling nature. In other words, most parents believe that talking with boys about sexuality is pointless since they are perfectly capable of obtaining relevant information and exploring sexual behaviors.

“There is no need for this… It’s not like he has nothing else to do but go around and do it all day. He has to become a person who is useful to the society in more important matters.” (male participant with higher education, Yerevan)

The majority of the parents expressed the conviction that premarital sexual relations are only acceptable for boys and therefore they have to be more informed on the subject than girls. Moreover, girls’ virginity is associated with national identity and is even perceived as a national value.

The health and physical education curriculum in Armenian schools only partly addresses sexual education and covers mostly sexual and reproductive health issues, which, according to the surveyors, is hardly enough to fill the gaps in the field.

“The curriculum lacks a number of important topics, such as the anatomy and physiology of sexual and reproductive organs, sexual relations, methods of contraception, etc. Virtually all the topics emphasize only the bad consequences of sexual activity, which in itself is not an effective method,” the study says.

According to the Article 5.1 of the Armenian Law on Reproductive Health and Rights to Reproduction, adolescents have the right to be informed about puberty, sexual and reproductive health issues, to have the necessary knowledge about abortion and ways of preventing AIDS.

“Despite the existence of the aforementioned article, Sex Education has yet to be included in the caricullumas a separate course. Sexuality is an important part of human upbringing and education, and although it is difficult for people in our society to talk about sexuality, it’s high time to implement a Sex Education curriculum in schools, which requires the creation and supervision of special mechanisms,” the study concludes.