Strumica, North Macedonia, March 23, 2023
On Tuesday, March 21, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy of the Republic of North Macedonia issued a statement, “The draft law on gender equality promotes gender equality in society, we aim for a society without stereotypes, going back is a societal regression.”
The statement comes after the Ministry organized public debates on the Draft Law on Gender Equality across the country, while the Orthodox Eleusa Foundation held its own forum against sex education in public schools, where, according to the Ministry’s statement, the definitions and terms involved “in the discourse on gender equality” were “misinterpreted.”
His Grace Bishop Jacob of Stobi, Vicar of the Diocese of Strumica, who participated in the Eleusa Foundation’s forum, published a response yesterday, addressed to Minister of Labor and Social Policy Jovana Trenchevska.
His Grace begins by noting that the announcement, which he takes as at least partially aimed at himself, clearly came from the pen of a “malicious gender activist.”
“The announcement itself confirms my point from the forum that institutions have become hostages of gender ideologues,” Bp. Jacob writes. “We now have legal solutions being created exclusively by activists… In fact, the people’s reaction to the debate held last week indicates that you have not made room for the truth.”
The goal of “gender equality” is not, as the Ministry claims, to improve the position of women, the hierarch writes, but is, given the Ministry’s emphasis on so-called “gender identity,” in fact, “to elevate a kind of man suffering from a psychological disorder above all women and above all men in Macedonia.”
The Minister should stop hiding behind “women’s rights” and “be transparent with the people that in your opinion, women can have male genitalia and men can give birth,” Bp. Jacob exhorts.
Against the accusation that “gender identity” was misrepresented at the forum, the bishop notes that the Ministry’s own announcement contradicts itself, on the one hand arguing that a man can be a woman and that all “stereotypes” that deny this should be eradicated, and on the other hand stating that “biological and physiological characteristics define men and women.”
If the Ministry wants to introduce sex education into schools, the parents must be involved, and there must be “a broad social consensus,” otherwise “every imposition is a direct attack on freedom and the constitutionally guaranteed right of parents to decide how to educate and raise their children,” His Grace continues.
According to the manuals already available, children will be taught that they can start sexual intercourse at any age and “experiment with sexual partners, so they need to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases,” Bp. Jacob laments. “This doesn’t fall into the category of ‘responsible behavior,’ which you claim will be the result of comprehensive sex education.
The hierarch concludes:
The views that there are countless fluid identities and that a man can give birth and a woman can have a penis are harmful and destructive to the psychophysical health of children. As I said above, I can additionally deliver all the links to scientists and experts who alert children to keep away from such ideologies.
Finally, attempts to ban me from expressing my evidence-backed views, and manipulatively denigrating my character by activists who wrote your text is discrimination on religious grounds and censorship of free speech, which is guaranteed to me and all citizens of Macedonia by the Constitution. I hope we agree that a serious government institution must not afford such a thing in a country where democracy rules.
Similarly, in April 2020, the Romanian Orthodox Church opposed compulsory sex education in schools, calling for parents to be able to retain the right to decide how their child will be educated in such matters. Two months later, the Romanian Parliament nixed mandatory sex education.