The Fight Against Gender Stereotypes and Parental Rights

Here is the text of an address given by Gregor Puppinck at a symposium on education held last weekend in Rome.

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French parents who wish to pass on certain values to their children will clash in the coming months over the Republic’s education system, which the current Government wishes to reform, particularly in relation to the complementary nature of men and women, of human sexuality and of morality.

The Taubira marriage law reform proposal should be considered in conjunction with another fundamental project of the current Government: the “reform of the education system of the Republic,” presently being discussed by the National Assembly.  This law project on the “reform of the education system of the Republic” pledges, among other provisions, to introduce an obligatory new secular morality and civic education, in order to fight against gender stereotypes from the youngest age possible.  In the press and before the Assembly, the Minister of Education, Vincent Peillon, has specified that “the goal of the secular morality is to remove all family, ethnic, social and intellectual determinisms from the pupil[1] to “allow each pupil to be liberated,” because “the goal of the Republican education system has always been to produce a free individual[2].  In the same way, the Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira has declared to the Assembly that “in our values, education aims to relieve pupils of social and religious determinisms and make them free citizens[3].

One of these determinisms would be gender identity; the removal of gender stereotypes is seen as a way of liberating children.  The project of the “reform of the education system of the Republic” provides at present that “education on gender equality” will become the mission of primary schools, from the age of 6, “in order to substitute categories such as sex (…) for the concept of gender which (…) shows that the differences between men and women are not founded by nature, but are historically constructed and socially reproduced[4].  This idea is also articulated in the recent report of the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs[5] which recommends that schools engage in the “fight against gender stereotypes” “from the youngest age,” that it dismantles “the ideology of the complementary nature” of men and women to “move towards an [equal] society.”  To this end, the report notably suggests that teachers replace the descriptors “boys” and “girls” with the neutral terms “friends” or “children,” to tell stories in which the children have two fathers or two mothers, etc.  This is, according to the report, to prevent “sexual differentiation” and the children internalising their sexual identity.  In addition to these aspects which relate to the theory of gender, the secular morality promoted by the project of the “reform of the education system of the Republic” is also a source of concern.  This law project envisages societal reform through education; it is complementary to the Taubira proposal which “reforms” family through marriage.  As Mr Peillon has indicated, “the Government is pressing young people to change their attitudes, notably by means of an education which respects the diversity of sexual orientation[6]

So, if the Taubira law on “marriage” is adopted, public education should not only “dismantle gender stereotypes” in the minds of children, but furthermore teach them that it is normal to have two mothers (and an unknown father), or two fathers (and a carrier mother).  These “parental arrangements” will be taught as if they are objective facts (and not choices) and will therefore be insusceptible to any moral judgement. 

Parents who wish to pass on natural morality to their children will be trapped: they should tell their children not to believe what they are taught at school, but to remain silent so they will avoid getting into trouble.  This will be an evident violation of the parents’ natural rights.  The projects and declarations of Ms Taubira and Mr Peillon also unambiguously show their intention not to respect the rights of parents, but to extract the children (from their parents’ views) to liberate them.  These parental rights have been reaffirmed in the great declarations of human rights after the Second World War, in response to Nazi, Fascist and Communist totalitarianism.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State” (Article 16(3)) and that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” (Article 26(3)).  In ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the contracting States have engaged “to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions” (Article 18(4)).  In an even more explicit fashion, the European Convention on Human Rights makes clear that “in the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions” (First Additional Protocol, Article 2).

Currently, the rights of the family are under attack once again in the name of a project for society; no longer founded on family, but on the notions of tolerance, non-discrimination and pluralism, and which considers any man as a purely abstract individual.  The power of the State has found itself newly extended, as the objective of putting a “project for society” into action firstly requires the power to define it and the right to impose it.

That which French parents now face has already been successfully confronted by Spanish parents.  On the other hand, in Germany, parents have preferred to go immediately to jail (that is; with no opportunity to receive a suspended sentence) rather than send their children to sex education classes.  In Russia, the situation is different, where regional Governments, on the demand of families, have adopted laws which are intended to protect children against LGBT propaganda, but they are faced with strong pressure from European Institutions and lobbies.


Mr Peillon’s proposal is very similar to the “Education for Citizenship” courses created and imposed by the former Spanish Government of Mr Zapatero.  This was a project to teach a secular, fairly anti-religious, morality with a strong insistence on gender equality and infantile sexuality (see this presentation video).  The objective of this compulsory and graded class from primary school onwards was to “construct the moral conscience” of children, to develop their “personal identity” and their “emotional and affective education”.

An important part of Spanish society rejected this course.  The People’s Party, the main right-wing party, as well as the Spanish Episcopal Conference, denounced it.  The three bishops of Madrid declared it morally acceptable to employ all legitimate methods of defending the freedom of conscience, including conscientious objection[7].  Very quickly, 55,000 families declared themselves “conscientious
objectors” and refused to allow their children to participate in these classes.  The parents formed more than 70 local and regional associations to support the objectors and fight against these classes.  Numerous parents were pursued by the authorities and almost 2,300 judicial procedures were initiated.  In nearly nine cases out of ten, in 2007 and 2008, local and regional tribunals condemned the Government for infringing on the rights of the parents.  The parents, however, failed in their attempts to have their fundamental right to oppose this education recognised by the Spanish Supreme Court, although it did acknowledge the existence of a risk of indoctrination.  On 19th March 2010, 305 parents appealed to the European Court of Human Rights[8] (with the help of the ECLJ) on the grounds that the European Convention on Human Rights provides that “in the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions” (First Additional Protocol, Article 2).  The European Court has not yet made a decision.  It should judge whether or not the course of Education for Citizenship pursues “an aim of indoctrination that might be considered as not respecting parents’ religious and philosophical convictions[9] and verify “that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner, enabling pupils to develop a critical mind with regard to religion in a calm atmosphere which is free of any misplaced proselytism[10].  It is not suggested that the Court will condemn Spain.  However, following the popular mobilisation, the new, right-wing Government of Mariano Rajoy declared on its election its intention to reform this course, which it has begun to do.


Parents have chosen immediate prison sentences rather than allowing their children to attend sex education classes.  The curriculum of these classes, compulsory in all private and public primary schools, varies according to the Länder the school is in.  In many regions parents have asked that their children, aged between 7 and 9 years old, be dismissed from these classes, the content of which they have consulted beforehand.  On the refusal of the school, certain parents have taken further action and have been fined for keeping their children at home.  In refusing to pay these fines due to their conscientious objection, which they consider a violation of their parental rights, the parents have then been sentenced to 43 days in prison.  This is and has been the case for many families in Salzkotten, in the Rhineland.  Some parents with more than one child have completed several such jail terms.

These parents appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that Germany could force the parents to send their children to these classes with the goal of “integrating minorities and avoiding the formation of religiously or ideologically motivated “parallel societies””.  Concerning the teaching of the theory of gender to children, the Court decided, in agreement with the German Government, that “sexual education should encourage tolerance between human beings irrespective of their sexual orientation and identity[11].

In other instances, the European Court has supported the condemnation of parents who have refused to allow their children to participate in compulsory courses of secular morality[12], but inversely has judged that the obligatory character of courses on religious culture violates the rights of humanist parents[13].


In Russia, in response to the demand of family associations and the Orthodox Church, an increasing number of regions, nine to date including Saint Petersburg and Kaliningrad[14], have adopted laws intended to protect children from “homosexual propaganda”.  These laws, the first of which was adopted in 2006 following homosexual demonstrations which shocked the population, are designed to protect children from messages presenting LGBT practices in an aggressive and favourable manner, or as being equivalent to marital relationships[15].  On 25th January 2013, the Russian Parliament, the Duma, almost unanimously adopted at first reading a law proposal extending this prohibition to the entirety of the Russian Federation.  The Government is acting in the name of its responsibility to “protect children from information which puts their health and moral and spiritual welfare in danger”[16], notably those likely to undermine family values.  These laws are not an isolated phenomenon: “gay prides” are often forbidden, and Russia has announced that it will not allow Russian children to be the subject of international adoption by couples of the same sex.


Through the debate on school, marriage and the family, the nature and structure of society is being called into question: marriage, school and family are interdependent and largely define society.  It must be recognised that this debate pits ordinary people, the populace, against a so-called “enlightened elite” whose social projects – like the theory of gender – is difficult for the uninitiated to understand.  The debate taking place is also at the centre of international institutions which, more so than national institutions, knowingly exercise the responsibility to define and create tomorrow’s society.  The European Court defines itself as “The Conscience of Europe”[17].

Russia has been strongly criticised on many occasions by the European Union (Brussels) and the Council of Europe (Strasbourg).  The European Parliament, Mrs Ashton, who represents European diplomacy, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe have all condemned the Russian laws prohibiting “homosexual propaganda around minors”.  LGBT organisations are very actively leading the campaign.  The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has expressed its “deep concern”[18] and has urged Russia to begin conforming to the opinion of the “Commission of Venice”[19].  The objective of this pressure is to avoid the project of federal law being definitively adopted by the Duma at the second reading in May.

The European institutions affirm that these Russian laws violate human rights when they envisage the protection of the family, of morals, and of the health of children, and bring no general attack on the freedom of expression, or on the private lives of homosexuals.  Russian Family NGO’s have responded to pro-LGBT international NGO’s[20].  The Russians have few chances of being heard on this subject, which has acquired considerable importance in the political priorities of European and American institutions; nevertheless, they have the capacity to resist the pressure currently being put upon them.

The promotion of the theory of gender is not limited to schools and education.  In reality, the question is much larger.  The rights of parents are clashing with the general policy of non-discrimination according to sexual orientation, in which the promotion of the theory of gender is inscribed. The problem which has arisen in relation to education has similarly arisen in relation to the rest of society.  In this regard, numerous people have already been sanctioned due to their moral refusal of homosexuality.  England is an exemp
lary case: since the adoption of a law in 2010 on equality and non-discrimination, sanctions and condemnations have multiplied[21].  For example, a couple were refused permission to be a host family due to their views on homosexuality, a doctor was forced to leave his position in social services after abstaining from taking part in the decision to give children to same-sex couples, Catholic adoption agencies have had to end their activities due to their refusal to give children to same sex couples[22], a civil service Registrar and a marriage counsellor have been dismissed after having expressed their incapacity, in conscience, to give sexual counsel to a homosexual couple and to celebrate their civil union. The European Court has not held these dismissals to be abusive[23].  This was also the case in Spain where a magistrate who asked for a medical examination in order to determine whether it was in the interests of a child to be adopted its mother’s companion, was suspended for ten years as such an examination would have constituted a delaying tactic and a homophobic act[24].

These are only a few examples of a phenomenon that strongly risks being generalised, in particular if the European Union adopts the “Proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”.

This tendency is strong, but not inescapable as has been shown by the Spanish and Russian examples.  Another recent example is the project of the Council of Europe “on the rights and legal status of children and parental responsibilities” which confirmed marriage, adoption, medically assisted procreation for same sex couples and even carrier mothers (in surrogacy), which was finally rejected by the Committee of Ministers after an intense campaign of “counter-lobbying”.  The objective of this recommendation was to reform the family unit so it would be founded only on will (and not biology) and to promote the principle of the acceptability and equality of all types of union and procreation (adoption, medically assisted procreation, surrogacy “for all”).

For the moment, to demonstrate for the withdrawal of the Taubira law, is also to demonstrate to protect the freedom of parental conscience and their inalienable right to educate their children to respect fundamental moral values, notably the complementary nature of men and women, of sexuality and of the sense of truth.  There is hatred and aggression against the moral conscience, marriage and the family, which are perceived as obstacles to individual liberty, to freedom… and to the ideological holding of public powers.

The experiences of Russia, of the United Kingdom, of Germany and of Spain show French families that nothing is decided in advance, and that different scenarios are possible.  What will come to pass in France will be important in Europe and will depend on the degree of mobilisation and the political conscience of families and bishops.  But at its foundation, the only strategy is to show what liberty truly consists of, founded on truth.  The truth is not inaccessible: it is true that every child has a father and a mother and needs them both.  Because these children are those of parents and not of the State, the public authorities have the duty to respect the rights of parents to educate their children.

The expression of freedom and truth comes from family education, but also from public demonstration, and if necessary from conscientious objection.

[1] See, of 02/09/2012, Vincent Peillon pour l’enseignement de la «morale laïque» [Vincent Peillon for the teaching of a “secular morality”].

[2] National Assembly, compte-rendu intégral de la deuxième séance du jeudi 14 mars 2013 [Integral Report of the second session of Thursday 14th March 2013].

[3] National Assembly, 3rd February 2013.  Integral Report of the second session of Sunday 3rd February 2013 reports a slightly different formulation to that which had been largely reported in the media and that we reproduced.

[4] Commission of Cultural Affairs of the National Assembly, 28th February 2013.  Oral presentation of the amendment by its author, Ms Julie Sommaruga, Member of Parliament.

[5] Inspection générale des affaires sociales [General Inspectorate of Social Affairs], GRESY Brigitte, GEORGES Philippe, Rapport sur l’égalité entre les filles et les garçons dans les modes d’accueil de la petite enfance [Report on equality between girls and boys through its introduction during infancy], December 2012.

[6] Letter of Vincent Peillon, Minister of Education, to Education Officers, dated 4th January 2013.

[7] 1st September 2008. At:

[8] Ramos Bejarano and Others v. Spain, no. 15976/10.

[9] Johanna Appel-Irrgang and Others v. Germany (no. 45216/07).

[10] Johanna Appel-Irrgang and Others v. Germany (no. 45216/07), Decision.

[11] Konrad v. Germany no. 35504/03 11th September 2006, and DOJAN and Others v. Germany, no. 319/08, 2455/08, 7908/10, 8152/10, 8155/10, 13th September 2011.

[12] Johanna Appel-Irrgang and Others v. Germany (no. 45216/07).

[13] Folgero and Others v. Norway, GC, no 15472/02, 29th June 2007.

[14] The regions are: Ryazan, Arkhangelsk, Kostroma, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Magadan, Samara, the Republic of Bashkortostan, the Krasnodar Territory and Kaliningrad.

[15] According to the definition given by the Russian Supreme Court, in its decision of 15th August 2012 in relation to the law of the Arkhangelsk Region.

[16] Federal Law on the Fundamental Protection of the Rights of Children (no. 124-FZ of 24th June 1998).

[17] The Conscience of Europe, 50 years of the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe, October 2010.

[18] Council of Europe, Decision of the Committee of Ministers during its 1164th meeting (5th-7th March 2013) in relation to , 4916/07.

[19] The Commission of Venice is composed of constitutional law experts; it recently ruled on the new Hungarian Constitution.

[20] Communication to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe concerning Alekseyev v. Russia (application no. 4916/07), by the Family and Demography Foundation,

[21] See the websites of the Christian Conce
and the Christian Legal Centre organisations.

[22] See the article by Jean Mercie, Cour Européenne des Droits de l’homme : pas de discrimination antichrétienne[The European Court of Human Rights: No Anti-Christian Discrimination], appeared on La Vie on 15thJanuary 2013.

[23] Eweida and Others v. United Kingdom, n°48420/10, 59842/10, 51671/10 and 36516/10 of 15th January 2013.

[24] Tribunal Supremo, Recurso No. 192/2009,

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Grégor Puppinck

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