Last night, a fire was set in a primary school in the Belgian municipality of Charleroi for the sixth time in two days. In four of the fires, the motive for the arson appears to revolve around sex education classes. This is evident from graffiti that has been painted in the schools. This reference is missing for the last two fires.
This week, a decree was approved on sex education lessons in schools in Wallonia and Brussels. From now on, students must receive two hours of lessons per year about sexuality, relationships and emotions. This rule applies to children in French-speaking education who are in the sixth grade (comparable to group 8 at primary school in the Netherlands) and the fourth year of secondary school.
The so-called “Evras” decree immediately led to protests, including from Islamic and Catholic quarters. For example, seven Islamic (mosque) associations signed a letter expressing their objection to the lessons. But there is also criticism outside religious circles. For example, the Belgian newspaper De Standaard writes about Facebook groups where the lessons met resistance and the role of influential people. For example, French rapper Rohff called on his almost million followers to sign a petition against Evras.
In Brussels, angry parents protested in front of the parliament of the French community. And in Charleroi, four primary schools were set on fire in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. The text ‘No Evras’ was sprayed on the wall in graffiti at those schools. Evras stands for ‘education à la vie relationnelle, affective & sexuelle’. That is why the police think it is a response to the decree.
Another primary school was set on fire on Wednesday night and a sixth school was set on fire last night, all in the Charleroi region. No graffiti was found at the last two schools and therefore the police do not want to make a direct link between the fire and the Ervas teaching method.
This method has been around since 2012. Until this week, the lessons, which are about relationships, feelings or a changing body, were not mandatory. Even now, according to the VRT, schools are still free in how exactly they organize the lessons.
Mayor Paul Magnette reacts angrily to X: “Attacking our schools is attacking our children. These barbaric acts are all the more criminal because they damage the future of the students: their education, their growth, their emancipation.”
Fake news about porn
The commotion that arose is reminiscent of the commotion that arose in the Netherlands during the Week of Spring Fever. Rutgers, the expertise center for sexuality, pointed out the misinformation about the lessons that was widely shared online.
This also seems to be the case in Belgium. For example, the Belgian expertise center for sexuality, Sensoa, told VRT: “A fake news campaign has been started that plays on the emotions of parents. Absurd claims are being spread, as if students are learning to masturbate or as if porn would be shown in those lessons. Parents panicked.”
- Despite unrest, more information lessons were given during Spring Fever Week
- ‘Don’t react frantically when your child asks what a dick pic is’
- ‘Sex education should revolve around ‘wishes and boundaries”