Iceland's Facebook war over sex education

Gylfi Aegisson's folk tunes are popular in Iceland, but his recent comments about homosexuality attracted the anger of gay rights campaigners Image copyright Youtube
Image caption Gylfi Aegisson's folk tunes are popular in Iceland, but his recent comments about homosexuality attracted the anger of gay rights campaigners

Iceland is one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to gay rights - but more conservative views are not unknown, and one prominent musician has started a social media storm by attacking a new sex education curriculum.

Gylfi Aegisson was once one of Iceland's most well-liked musicians, known for his folk songs about sailors. But he's now attracted the ire of gay rights groups after criticising authorities in one small town who decided instruction about homosexuality would be included in sex education.

Aegisson's Facebook page encouraged people to "protect the children" from "the indoctrination of our children by small but loud pressure groups in society." Those remarks might have remained in a small circle of Aegisson's Facebook friends. But people offended by his comments - led by gay rights advocacy groups - decided to make them an issue. They turned the remarks on their head and insisted that children should be protected - from Gylfi Aegisson.

"We could really sense the need ... to speak up against Gylfi and other people who share his views," says Arni Gretar Johannsson, the general manager of gay rights organisation Samtokin '78. "That's why we created this platform and hijacked some of the things he said." Over the past week several thousand people have used #verndumbornin ("let's protect children"), #hinseginleikinn ("queer reality") and related hashtags - fairly big numbers in a country of not much more than 300,000 people.

A smaller number of people online defended Aegisson and for them, this was a free speech issue. "Can't he have his own opinion? Is he using hate speech...or, is he a victim of hate speech?" asked one supporter on Twitter.

Paul Fontaine at the Reykjavík Grapevine, an English-language magazine in the capital, is of the opinion that Gylfi Aegisson is out of step with the general mood in the country, where homosexuality has been legal since 1940, same-sex partnerships have been recognised for two decades, and where in 2009 former prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir became the world's first openly gay national leader.

"There is, and always will be, a demographic of social conservatives who are viscerally disgusted by homosexuality and transgender folk, but on the whole I'd say intolerance towards the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community is shrinking," he told BBC Trending. "There is the oft-cited fact that Icelanders elected a gay Prime Minister. This is a fact that was repeated often in the international media as something remarkable. The fact is, Icelanders themselves - whether supportive of or opposed to that PM - never even raised her sexuality as a point of discussion. It literally made no difference."

Blog by Anisa Subedar

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