In 1974, Rutgers launched a sexual education programme due to the need for knowledge about the downside of sexuality. More than ten years later, the Dutch children’s news programme (Jeugdjournaal) demonstrated how a condom should be used. Some people thought this was totally out of order. At the end of the nineties, the magazine Break-out! emerged with the feature “Sex & Love”. The magazine was a success, but parents were worried and parliamentary questions were posed by politicians.
Focussing on sexuality and sexual diversity became a core objective of education in 2012 although teachers did nott know how to deal with this subject. This is where Doctor Corrie came in, a weekly item in the news programme ‘School tv-weekjournaal’. This had an impact, but the broadcast was also criticized by the Christian political party (‘ChristenUnie’) that questioned the programme in parliament.
Sexual education given at school does not prepare young people to deal with sexuality, according to the research Sex under 25 (2017). Schools do highlight reproduction, preventing pregnancy and STD’s and HIV. However, important subjects such as sexual diversity and sexual abuse mostly remain undiscussed.
Figures also show that talking about sexuality with parents and friends seems to have become a bigger taboo. Books and magazines have become less interesting as the internet has become a popular source of information, although the internet has not replaced the conversations about sex within people’s social environment.
In the Netherlands, Rutgers, together with Soa Aids Nederland, takes responsibility for the sexual education of young people between 12 and 25. Digital teaching packages such as ‘Butterflies in your tummy’ and ‘Long Live Love’ (Kriebels in je buik and Lange leve de liefde) are used in primary and special education as well as vocational college. There are also annual campaign weeks: Week of Spring Fever and Week of Love. For professionals, Rutgers shares all available information on seksuelevorming.nl.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is used worldwide by our country offices and partners in programmes such as Get Up Speak Out and Yes I Do. One of the most chosen methods for these programmes is edutainment. In Yes I Do, for example, we collaborate with local radio – and tv channels to teach healthy relational education.
Abortion is still prohibited in 58 countries worldwide, unless the woman is in danger of dying. In six countries, abortion is illegal under all circumstances. Rutgers also pleads for safe abortion care in countries with strict regulations. In the Netherlands, we continuously lobby for the preservation of the abortion law Wet Afbreking Zwangerschappen, which gives the right to abortion.
Strict abortion regulations do not result in lower abortion figures. Forbidding abortion does not eliminate the need. Mainly poor women are affected: they cannot afford to travel to countries where abortion is legal and good care is available. They are sentenced to local quackery with the risk of dying.
Since January 2017, Rutgers has been the lead in the She Decides movement. This international movement was initiated by former minister Lilianne Ploumen as a powerful reaction to the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule or Mexico City Policy by Donald Trump, president of the United States. Because of this policy, millions of women and girls will no longer have access to contraception and safe abortion. This will result in an increased risk of unwanted pregnancies. The estimation is that 22 million women will have to rely on unsafe abortion.
Rutgers is the coordinator of the public crowdfunding of She Decides in The Netherlands. As administrator, Rutgers distributes the donations among the financially-affected organizations so they can keep carrying out their important work. Rutgers works closely together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the She Decides Support Unit which is established at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) in London.