Sex lessons with love
ALL 13 and 14-year-olds will learn about first-time sex, contraception and homosexuality in a new campaign launched by education minister Jack Lang and minister for the family Segolene Royal.
At present only a third of colleges (lower secondaries) use the 40 hours set aside for health education, of which two hours are specificially for sex instruction.
Ms Royal presented an information pack labelled "Bonheur d'aimer" ("The happiness of love"), being distributed to all colleges. This contains advice for biology teachers and medical staff, leaflets for pupils on such issues as virginity and first sexual intercourse, homosexuality and homophobia, contraception, sexism and chauvinism, together with a 10-minute video featuring three-dimensional images of biological functions, sexual intercourse and methods of contraception, intended to "launch discussions".
The ministers launched the initiative to pupils, staff and parents at the college-lycee Michelet in Vanves, just outside Paris. Teachers and medical staff thre have been running an effective sex education project for the past year with single-sex discussion groups, trips to family planning clinics and expert talks.
The campaign is to concentrate more on elements such as emotions and pupils' future role as parents, while not excluding advice on diseases or problems.
The ministers announced the plan as parliament prepares to vote on legislation to allow school medical staff to dispense the morning-after pill to schoolgirls - including pupils under 15, the age of consent. A previous attempt by Ms Royal to introduce this right was declared illegal by the State Council in June, but in the six months it was operating school nurses gave the emergency pill to 1,618 teenagers, out of 7,000 requests - 4,720 from minors.
Mr Lang said it was necessary to reintroduce the nurses' authority to dispense the pill to relieve girls' distress, and deal with the "disturbing" increase in abortions. About 10,000 French under-18s become pregnant each year, of whom 6,700 have abortions.