Croatia: Prime Minister’s wife’s conflict of interests and sex education in schools

Timothy Tate and Judith Reisman   Photo: Boris Kovacev/Cropix

Timothy Tate and Judith Reisman Photo: Boris Kovacev/Cropix

Croatian association “Parents’ Voice For Children” (GROZD) has, according to Dnevno.hr news portal, 11 February, sent Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic an open letter in which it seeks the convening of an extraordinary Government meeting. GROZD seeks the exclusion of Professor Aleksandar Stulhofer from the government’s advisory committee on sex education in schools program and an investigation into the matter of seeing whether Prof. Stulhofer is associated with exposing children to pornography and the spreading of pedophilia in the Republic of Croatia.

Remove from duties the Minister for Science, Education and Sport, Mr Jovanovic, and prevent him from working in any similar position within the government of the Republic of Croatia because, due to many omissions in his work unscientific program that rests upon gender ideology and follows the directions of the World Congress of Sexologists which, among other things, promotes pedophilia, has been introduced in all schools in Croatia”, the open letter says.

According to Dnevno.hr portal, GROZD also seeks the annulment of Minister Jovanovic’s decision that makes the health education program mandatory for all school students. It also states that Stulhofer, besides being a scholar and an associate of the Kinsey Institute in U.S.A., has been collaborating for many years with persons who are declared pedophiles. GROZD emphasises that Stulhofer was against the raising of the legal age from 14 to 16 for sexual intercourse with adults in Croatia.

GROZD offered a warning, once again, that Stulhofer has introduced topics into sex education curriculum that give space for the promotion of pedophilia and endangerment of children who are entrusted to the education system of Croatia.

We take the liberty to ask you to withdraw your wife, dr. Music Milanovic, from the government’s advisory committee on the development of the curriculum because it is a fact that she is one of five members of that committee, possibly giving a false credibility to Prof. Stulhofer and to the non-scientific and ideological foundations of the school program”, concludes GROZD in its letter to Prime Minister Milanovic.

Whether Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic’s wife’s role in the government’s advisory committee on school curriculum for health (sex) education constitutes a serious conflict of interest in action is a matter that I cannot go into because I do not possess any factual information as to the workings of this committee and into any safety or precautionary procedures that may be in place to avoid detrimental effects conflict of interest may have on the sex education program introduced as mandatory component of school education in Croatia. However, when considering conflict of interest one must not only look at the actual situation of conflict of interests but also the “perceived” conflict of interest must also be eliminated. Judging from the Parents’ association GROZD letter to the Prime Minister there is no doubt that perceived conflict of interest exists in the minds of the stakeholders and the public when it comes to the  mandatory sex education in schools curriculum. This, in any fair and true democracy must be avoided and it would seem to me that Zoran Milanovic’s wife should resign her position on the committee as a matter of decency towards the public’s perception and fears; as a matter of furthering democracy in Croatia.

The fact that the sex education in Croatian schools was introduced without adequate (or any) public/parent consultation is a tragedy for the relatively young democracy.  It has brought serious rifts between the Church and the state,
it has seen the harshest (without reasonable foundation) of disciplining of journalist Karolina Vidovic Kristo, it has seen barrages of offensive remarks against dr. Judith Reisman, but it has also brought home the realisation that Croatia has a long way to go in its path of building democracy into all facets of public life.

British investigative journalist and filmmaker summarises the issues of and around the mandatory sex education program in Croatian schools in the video clip below:

Disciplining of journalist Karolina Vidovic Kristo for simply offering to the public information associated with sex education in school is, as Timothy Tate says: “…indicative of a mentality which is not democratic, which is not comfortable with difficult facts brought out into the public arena. You can’t stop free speech if you want to be a democracy. It would be unthinkable in Britain for the Prime Minister of Britain to stand up in parliament, as your Prime Minister stood up in parliament, and essentially trash the reputation of a journalist for bringing to light of something that should be brought to light ”.

Indeed! But then the wife of the British, the Australian … Prime Minister would not sit on the government’s advisory committee for the development of school education curricula.  It is a long established fact that school education curricula are the responsibility of governments but are also a fertile ground for the promotion or furtherance of political orientations and views. It is on that note that school education curricula must be independent of any political parties and that any real or perceived conflict of interest be removed from them. Otherwise, the way things seem in Croatia at this moment, democracy has a long way to travel before its roots are planted in all avenues of daily, ordinary lives of citizens. And, finally, as the plot around public outcries against or for the imposed mandatory school sex education program in Croatia thickens with the revelation that Prime Minister’s wife sat on the government’s advisory committee for the program, one wonders how much and whether the pro-government’s public noises were in fact trying to cover up the possible government-linked conflict of interest involved in the final cut of the program. It’s a matter of “watch this space”, but one cannot but applaud dr Judith Reisman for her announcement of defamation lawsuits against the media outlets and individuals in Croatia who had set out to shred her reputation. Dr Reisman may yet be a heroine that will demonstrate to the Croatian public that freedom of speech in a democracy is a sanctity regulated by the rule of defamation law. Ina Vukic, Prof (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Sex On The Brain, Freedom Of Expression In The Drain

Dr. Judith Reisman  Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

Dr. Judith Reisman Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

While the recently introduced sex education in Croatian schools (about which I have written before) has attracted loud – intermittently laced with profound despair – controversies in community at large, distress and disappointment in many community and parent groups claiming there had not been adequate public discussion or consultation on the issue, serious rows and rifts between the Church and the State, the swift axing of “Picture of Croatia” TV show and hence punishing its head journalist Karolina Vidovic-Kristo for including extracts from “Kinsey Syndrome” in her coverage of the then proposed sex education program in schools, what has occurred in Croatia during the past week is nothing short of an alarmingly ugly face of a democracy and freedom of access to information.

Certainly, there’s a strong stench of intolerance for and lack of acknowledgment of diversity in opinion and thinking blowing from the current Social Democrats led government in Croatia. One might say quite similar to the climate that pervaded communist Yugoslavia. It is alarming to even contemplate that a governing party representative in a democratic country would go so far as to verbalise publicly that expressions of different thinking should be banned, and suffer no consequences, no reprimand from the government. That’s what has happened in Croatia the last few days and it is truly no wonder that people at large are calling the current government Communists, with connotations that lead one to conclude that democratic civil freedoms in Croatia are suffering significant setbacks.

The metastases of the government’s apparent intolerance of differing opinions surfaced this week like never before; orchestrated and often uncivilised attacks on views and work of Dr. Judith Reisman, an American cultural conservative writer best known for her criticism and condemnation of the work and legacy of Alfred Kinsey who believes sex researcher Alfred Kinsey is responsible for much of the cultural decay and sexual permissiveness that she sees; that affect today’s societies.

On Tuesday 29 January freedom of speech, media freedom got suspended in Croatia and so did the respect of fundamental principles of journalism, writes Marko Juric of Dnevno.hr.

On that day the leading Croatian media outlet, HTV, reported about Dr. Judith Reisman’s lecture at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb, in a manner that was ‘extremely shameful and completely akin to manners found in the far away times of Fascism or Bolshevism of one-party totalitarian system’. All that the public could hear or see from this HTV coverage was what the staunch and aggressive, at times shockingly rude and utterly uncivilised opponents of Dr. Reisman’s views had to say.  The pinnacle of such intolerance was when the Faculty’s Dean, Nenad Zakosec, came out and aggressively, shouted at Reisman before hundreds of  students (many of which had shouted insults and barraged bigoted questions/comments):  ‘what are you doing here!‘”

It is no wonder that Reisman said later that she had never before in her life been confronted by so many bullies as during this visit to Croatia.

Then, her debate at the Faculty of Philosophy with the head of sexology there, Aleksandar Stulhofer, was cancelled on 30 January due to the big crowd turning up!

Stulhofer was one of the authors of the new sex education program in schools recently introduced in Croatia. One wonders whether the event organisers thought of “real fire” safety measure when they cancelled it, or whether they feared a new “fire against the government sex education program” would erupt. In view of everything that has transpired on sex education in schools in Croatia and the government’s stubbornness to go ahead with its plan regardless of the community disquiet about it, the latter would be a safer bet as to why the event at the Faculty of Philosophy was cancelled.

Then Reisman was supposed to attend the screening of documentary film director Timothy Tate’s film “Kinsey’s Paedophiles, secret history“, but, wouldn’t you know it – the screening fell through – cancelled despite enormous public interest. Technical difficulties were afoot – three times over!

Of course, the coalition government’s members of parliament have come out “screaming blue murder” at the parliamentary opposition’s (Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ) invitation to Reisman to give a lecture in the Croatian Parliament building – for the HDZ Parliamentary Club. Even though HDZ or any other parliamentary party has an absolute right under the Constitution to invite anyone they want to, to talk in their premises, the governing coalition is abhorred at the fact that someone who has a different view to theirs as to sex education and various influences on sexuality of children should be allowed to set foot in the parliament building! To quote governing Social Democrats; Tatjana Simac Bonacic: “… it is inappropriate for that (Reisman’s talk) to occur in Parliament, because the Parliament is a home, a symbol of democracy and as such it is certainly not for people like that (like Reisman)” ! (HRT News, 29 January 2013).

On the other hand, HDZ representatives including its President Tomislav Karamarko and Zeljko Reiner – deputy president HDZ parliamentary group, fan the view that in a democracy all views on the issue have the right of expression and should be heard and that if Reisman was good enough to talk in US Congress, she is good enough to talk in the Croatian Parliament building.

Indeed, it seems that in these crazy times HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union is one of the rare political parties in Croatia who see freedom of expression for what it truly is: freedom to express ones ideas and freedom to offer information on pertinent social, or other issues, leaving it to the individual to accept or reject the ideas, or even remain undecided.

So, is the orchestrated attack and intolerance expressed so widely in Croatia towards Judith Reisman really an objective and justified attack on her belief’s and work as unacceptable to today’s society, or did we just see a perfect example of intolerance and decay of democracy in Croatia fueled by the governing coalition’s attempts to censure and even oppress ideas that normally float freely in the democratically developed world?

In summary and regarding Reisman, the 2004 Bill Condon’s movie, “Kinsey”, may have reawakened America’s interest in the largely forgotten but influential post-War era sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey, but for Judith Reisman, he has been a singular dedication, which some have labelled as obsession, for decades. Reisman has given herself the task to fight against Kinsey, to focus on morality via existential battles with the forces of cultural decay and sexual permissiveness. While her ideas have naturally endeared her to a Who’s Who of conservative political echelons and many survivalists, she has had in 2004 provided expert testimony on Capitol Hill (Washington DC) for Republican Sen. Sam Brownback on the scientific perils of pornography. There, she also lobbied for the reintroduction of a bill that would mandate an investigation into her claim that Kinsey sexually abused children during his research. Through friends in the Justice Department, Reisman has helped push for an increased focus on prosecuting porn. As Reisman gathers influence across the world, her work is bearing an increasingly apparent mark on the Christian right’s political agenda and by extension, on social policy.

Some organisations in Croatia say that Reisman’s visit to Croatia is the result of the campaign of circles around the clergy, who are against the sex education in schools curriculum, to convince people that the scientific foundations of this curriculum are based on the criminal homosexual-pedophile work undertaken by Kinsey. Little doubt, those who say this are close to the government or its thinking; justifying perhaps the government’s unwavering resolve to implement its sex education curriculum “come Hell, or high water” in the constituency.

Having said all this, there were many in Croatia who welcomed Reisman and her talks; listened to her ideas, research, peacefully. That is what freedom of expression of ideas or freedom of information regarding an important issue affecting the society (such as sex education in schools) should be. So, there’s light at the end of the censorship tunnel – the incidents around Reisman may, hopefully, teach one how democracy should and should not work; and the threading of democratic processes may yet come to the seemingly badly needed drawing board. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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