News 11 Jun 14

Macedonia NGOs Slate 'Family Studies' For Students

Rights groups have urged the state Anti-Discrimination Commission to take action over new 'family studies' courses at university that define divorce and homosexuality as deviations.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Statue in central Skopje | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonia's Network of NGOs Against Discrimination - which includes the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights - on Tuesday condemned the establishment of an "Institute of Family Studies" at the country's main university.

The classes contain “visibly homophobic standpoints… emphasizing of the role of the woman (and not of the man) in the family, treat homosexuality and divorce as a socio-pathologic occurrences... and treat drug addiction as a deviation and not a health problem”, the network wrote.

The Network of NGOs says the role of the Sts Cyril and Methodius University should be to promote autonomous, modern and critical scientific thought and not “religious dogmas”.

News of the establishment of the institute last week caused a stir in public.

It intends to teach courses on “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.

The creators of the programme have defended the courses on the grounds that corroded family values among young people in Macedonia need restoring.

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.

The government has remained silent about the whole issue, as has the state Anti-Discrimination Commission.

Last June, the VMRO DPMNE party-led government adopted new abortion legislation that critics said curbed 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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