News 03 Jun 14

Macedonia's Top University Classes Gays as Deviants

NGOs voice concern as a new course on family values in Macedonia's top state university defines divorce and homosexuality as problems and 'deviations'.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

The state university in Skopje

Macedonia's main Sts Cyril and Methodius University has decided to establish a new "Institute for Family Studies" that will teach courses such as “Family Values and Morality”, “ Family and Social Deviations”, “Family and Religion” and “Family in Antiquity”.

The course named “Family and Social Deviations” aims to introduce students to
“social deviations and the modern family.... focusing on gaining knowledge of socio-pathological problems (alcoholism, drug addiction, divorce, hazardous games, murders, suicide, corruption, homosexuality) and the role of the family in preventing and suppressing social deviations”, the course material says.

Several rights groups, including the Women's Alliance, have condemned what they call the “discriminatory approach” used in the studies.

The Women's Alliance said that describing divorce as a problem was "a direct attack on the right of free will... guaranteed by international law and Macedonian Law on the Family”.

It reminded the creators of the curriculum and the university that the World Health Organization, WHO, ceased to classify homosexuality as a disease in 1990.

“Any moves against this decision is direct discrimination and a breach of international agreements on human rights that our country has ratified, as well as of the domestic anti-discrimination law,” the Women's Alliance said.

The former head of the Macedonian Helsinki Committe for Human Rights, Mirjana Najcevska, a member of the international federation of lawyers against gender discrimination, slated the description of divorce as a socio-pathological problem.

“The day is near when divorce will become a criminal act”, Najcevska warned, adding that “societies that nurture traditional gender roles are referred to as sexist societies”.

However, Skopje university sociology and religion professor Zoran Matevski - one of the creators of the curriculum - said young people need educating in forgotten family values.

“We have a moral vacuum, with an increased number of divorces, prostitution, alcoholism, and drug addiction all lowering moral values. We intend to restore family values through these studies,” he said.

Matevski said the studies also “would improve the demographic picture” as “ it is well known that ethnic Macedonians are in danger of decreasing in society”.

Some Macedonians have used social networks to suggest that the new course is effectively the work of the government of Nikola Gruevski, which has pursued a socially conservative agenda since taking power in 2006.

Last June, the VMRO DPMNE party-led government adopted new abortion legislation that critics said curbs women's rights. The changes were adopted amid protests by activists and in the absence from parliament of opposition parties.

The government has also backed an anti-abortion media campaign that described terminations as murder.

In 2010, Macedonia adopted an anti-discrimination law. However, this did not include explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Earlier, in 2009, the government tried to boost population growth by giving cash bonuses to mothers with more than one child.

However, this was outlawed by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it was discriminatory. The same provision remains active but in a different form.

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