“And what about sex ed: will it be implemented in schools?” This May the journalist of the Hromadske media posed this question to Oksen Lisovyi, Minister of Education and Science. His answer left us speechless.

“We don’t plan to add sex ed as a separate subject to the program. These topics are covered in the Health Class.

There are plenty of components we should focus on instead. For instance, so-called patriotic education. For me, it’s a matter of values one should understand and profess.”

What’s wrong with it?

Firstly, Oksen’s quote directly contradicts the promises he made a year ago. Then he said that the Ministry of Education and Science is developing standards that will implement sex ed classes in school education.

Secondly, this example highlights that the Ministry doesn’t care for dozens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens who supported a petition about implementing mandatory sex ed in schools on the President’s website.

Sex ed is not only a matter of values

Lisovyi claims that the values need to be incorporated in all school classes so that children would profess and live by them. It’s a worthy approach. Values really can be included in all the subjects. However, we need to remember that sex ed is not only a matter of values. According to the UN Standards of Sexuality Education, these are vital knowledge and skills that help children and teens navigate the complex world of interpersonal relations, health, and safety.

The idea of incorporating the values of sex ed into the existing subjects sounds brilliant and promising — but only for those who don’t know how the school system works. We believe that it actually will cause a whole set of problems:

  • Increased workload for the teachers. Teachers currently earn a minimum salary. In addition to their subject, home room activities, checking the homework, and constantly preparing for the classes, they will need to provide extra knowledge for the students. Chances are, they will simply avoid any sex ed-related topics due to the overloaded program, lack of time and special knowledge.
  • Lack of textbooks and specialized literature. Let’s be honest: teachers need textbooks. Using the ministry-approved textbooks ensures that teaching is done properly. Considering the workload, it’s much easier to use pre-prepared exercises. If the teachers are the ones determining and deciding how to incorporate the sex ed values, then no wonder these topics are taught inconsistently and desultorily. In other words, students may receive information not suited for their age which may traumatize them or they may not receive the full information.

The problems with sex ed in Health classes

The opponents of sex ed as a separate subject may claim that “feminists don’t need to make a big deal out of it”, as the values “will be incorporated in different subjects, and necessary knowledge and skills are already included in the Health class program”.

Just a gentle reminder: that’s a quote from the Health class textbook for the 8th grade, which was approved by the Ministry of Education and Science for use in schools, “The attire of the victim: short skirt, plunging neckline, and bright makeup can make a false impression and provoke a rapist.” It is not just that one quote, it’s the whole topic focused on not being the victim of a crime. This textbook literally promotes the antiscientific concept of “victim precipitation”, evoking the victim-blaming mentality and creating false ideas about safety.

The Health class doesn’t focus on pressing issues like grooming or sextortion. The topics of STIs, pregnancy, and contraception are addressed superficially. The main focus is on “abstinence”. Sex is demonized, and the program promotes fearmongering narratives like “Mom, don’t kill me”.

We are convinced that the Health classes program is in dire need of changes. The problem is, one can’t simply include the necessary sex-ed topics to the subject, as the class covers diverse topics ranging from hygiene and tooth-brushing to saving one’s life in critical situations. Even if they wanted to, the educators wouldn’t be able to cover all the necessary components of sex ed in the Health classes.


Does sex ed truly matter?

“If a child is aware of their boundaries, knows their concerns and their body, they will realize when something wrong [rape or harassment] is perpetrated and will be able to tell about it, “ says the psychologist Marharyta Yehorenko.

It’s hard to disagree with the expert. It’s also hard to accept that amidst the surge of sexualized violence against children (according to the children’s ombudsman, every fifth Ukrainian child is affected by sexual violence) this issue is not a priority. Kindernothilfe, one of the biggest European organizations for children’s rights, has recently published a disturbing research focusing on sexual violence against Ukrainian children. It is called “Letting kids speak about it.” The member of the Feminist Workshop attended the presentation of the research during the meeting of the GiHA working group organized by UN Women. Apparently, foreign researchers have identified:


  • lack of societal awareness of sexual violence against children and lack of sex ed in schools;
  • children don’t realize that they were affected by the sexualized violence or are blaming themselves;
  • lack of national educational campaigns on sexualized violence, consent, victim blaming, and lack of information about support services. 

Criticism and suggestions

When reading the news about Lisovyi’s statement on sex ed, you see an ad popping up on the media website. “The classic school education no longer provides your kid with basic knowledge? No need to fear. To feel the difference in the teaching approaches and to provide your kid with the best learning materials, try out the remote learning at the school (the name of a private school).”

First, kudos to the school’s advertising manager. Secondly, it shows an unfortunate tendency: quality education is only accessible to people who can afford a private school. Why does it happen? Because the state ignores the relevant needs of the school students and takes a path of the least resilience, primarily, internal resilience.

We believe that the implementation of comprehensive sex ed is a pressing issue. This subject totally can’t be “replaced” or “hidden” in the different subjects. It should exist as a separate class and needs to be taught following the approved standards.

We are well aware that such transformations can’t be implemented quickly. That’s why we are implementing the first sex education program for schools, which follows the UN standards. It was developed by experts in children’s psychology, medicine, reproductive health, and law.

If you want us to hold such lectures in your school, reach out to us at office@femwork.org or on social media.