Porn-in-schools plan leads to resignation

Not everyone agreed that snippets of porn should be shown to schoolchildren in class Keystone

Zurich’s first ever advocate for male affairs is resigning after less than a month in the post after pressing for teachers to be given the freedom to show pornographic materials to students aged under 16.

This content was published on July 24, 2012 - 13:25
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Markus Theunert, a psychologist and sociologist, stood down on Tuesday, saying he was not prepared to quit his other job as president of Männer.ch, a national organisation for men and fathers, where he has been active on paternity leave and equality issues.

His problems started on July 15 when, wearing his Männer.ch hat, he told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that teachers should be able to show porn in the classroom so that young people could learn how to deal with it.

The group was calling for a change in the law so that “parents and trained professionals are not liable to prosecution if they make pornographic materials accessible to those under 16 with a clear educational objective and within a carefully selected and well-defined setting”.

“Today, an overwhelming majority of children have already seen pornographic movies over the internet or on smartphones,” Theunert, 39, who has been president of Männer.ch since 2005, told the NZZ.

He wanted teachers of sex education to be able to show pupils “a few minutes of soft pornography”. Männer.ch stressed that pupils would be free to opt out if they were opposed to viewing porn at school.

In Switzerland, the content and amount of sex education is decided at the cantonal level.

“Totally inappropriate”

The idea triggered considerable outrage, particularly among those on the political right. Anita Borer from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party said the idea of showing children porn in school was “totally inappropriate” and that the content would overwhelm many students.

Others said they were keen to encourage pupils to talk about sex in the classroom but drew the line at pornography.

“It’s good to talk, but you don’t have to show images,” Luc Barthassat of the centre-right Christian Democratic Party told Le Matin newspaper.

“If Theunert makes such questionable statements again, he must accept the consequences and resign from his position [as advocate for male affairs],” People’s Party parliamentarian Rochus Burtscher told the 20 Minuten freesheet at the time.

Credibility saved?

On Tuesday, Zurich cantonal authorities said Theunert’s double role had led to unavoidable areas of conflict, adding that his resignation would preserve the credibility of the recently created post.

Theunert said he was leaving the public post “with a heavy heart”. He added he had greatly enjoyed the job and wished he could have tackled “the pioneering work with the necessary calmness and objectivity”.

Zurich set up a gender equality office 20 years ago and since then the employment and training situation for women has improved, despite the fact that women still earn on average less than men doing exactly the same job.

However, men often have difficulty reconciling work and family life, according to the Zurich government. The authorities therefore decided to create a men’s advocate, who reports to the cantonal gender equality office.

This position, the authorities stressed on Tuesday, “had not failed”. The Zurich branch of the People's Party, however, demanded the "completely unnecessary" position be not filled again.

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