French schools are battling a boycott after hoax text messages were sent to parents warning that teachers were introducing “gender theory” classes and planned to teach children as young as four how to masturbate.
Almost half the pupils from some French primary schools were absent from class after the text messages, which were allegedly sent by 'Equality and Reconciliation', an association with links to the far-Right, were widely circulated.
The group claims the campaign, which is thought to be connected to acquaintances of the far-right essayist Alain Soral - famous for his anti-feminist and anti-gay marriage views, was created to “protect children's intimacy and integrity”.
According to The Local, quoting reports in the French daily Libération, last week parents were sent text messages warning them to keep their children at home on Friday or Monday as a protest against the schools teaching gender theory, sex education and masturbation.
Another report from French news outlet Est Republicain claimed a text message read: “Sex education will be provided in nursery schools in September 2014, with demonstrations.” According to the reports another read: “Now they are talking about teaching children aged four, how to masturbate.”
“The state is going to teach our children that they were not born a boy or a girl like God wanted, but they are whatever they choose to become. With gay and lesbian speakers who will fill their heads with monstrous ideas,” read part of another text.
The call to boycott classes was mostly responded to by Muslim parents The Telegraph reported stating that in areas with large immigrant populations up to 40 per cent of pupils stayed away.
Anti-gay marriage campaigners appear to have latched onto a government initiative called the “ABCD of equality in school”.
The Local reports that campaigner Farida Belghoul, who is allegedly behind some of the protests, has suggested that the initiative, which aims to teach equality and respect, has a hidden ideological agenda.
The origin of the masturbation class rumours would appear also to be right-wing websites.
They suggest that the French government has adopted a World Health Organisation report that they spuriously claim encourages child masturbation.
The recommendations of the report, which was published in 2010, have no legislative power in France regardless.
The French Ministry of Education told Est Republicain that the rumours were 'unfounded and slanderous' and that the ABCD of equality was aimed at promoting equality and diversity in schools.
“Parents should have no fear about putting their children into public school,” a spokesman said.