Rutgers celebrates 50 years!

The fact that Rutgers has been operating for fifty years is good reason for celebration! In the meantime, it has expanded from an institute that provided contraceptives and information into a centre of expertise which shares its knowledge and experience throughout the Netherlands and far beyond. Just as we once played a role in bringing about sexual emancipation in the Netherlands, so we currently support other countries in raising their own level of sexual health and rights. The some three hundred guests invited to Utrecht’s Nicolaï Church were treated to a splendid programme, highlighting both the role performed by Rutgers and the significance of the work it carries out.

A royal visit

It was an event with a regal touch. The invitees included a very special guest indeed: King Willem-Alexander himself was among the audience of a panel debate about sex and sexual education. His Majesty also spoke to numerous domestic and international guests, who informed him of the state of sexual education both at home and abroad.

Absolutely vital

Rutgers’ work remains vital to this very day, as we learned from the young people, experts and partners in the international field attending. The explosive growth of the global population and poor access to safe abortion and contraception in many countries are problems which urgently need to be addressed. However, movements such as She Decides and the Women’s Marches show that there is also considerable cause for concern in the Western world. Furthermore, the response to #MeToo bears witness to the fact that sexual harassment is a global problem.

Sex is everywhere you look

As previously mentioned, a great deal has changed in the Netherlands during the past fifty years. A panel comprising representatives of various generations explained about their own sexual education. Panellist Paul Schnabel received no sex education whatsoever in the nineteen-fifties. His fellow panellist Linda de Munck, however, speaks entirely frankly about sex and all it entails in her vlogs on YouTube. Today’s young people have ready access to information. Sex is everywhere you look nowadays. This also makes them feel uncertain, however. As junior panellist Freek Donkers pointed out during the intergenerational debate: ‘My mother says that porn is nothing like real sex. The people it features are not even in love.’

Young people pitch sexual education in the year 2030

Significant insight gained by Rutgers was also confirmed by others today, namely that it is crucial to listen to the young people themselves, thereby learning what they need and how to set about providing it. With this in mind, Rutgers organised a challenge in which students competed: what will sexual education comprise in the year 2030? Three teams were allowed to pitch their concept, whereupon a jury of experts chose the winning entry. All three ideas nevertheless proved both inspiring and suitable for use in the future.

Light-hearted yet profound

The audience listened, laughed, took part in a quiz and learned a great deal in just one morning; about the current generation of young people and the state of sexual education in the Netherlands and countries including Uganda, Kenya and Bangladesh. Sexual health and rights have a huge impact on people’s lives. And there evidently remains much to be done. We nevertheless have a right to be proud of our achievements, both in the Netherlands and much further afield.


 

Video series “Five unread messages" www.rutgers50.international

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