The German government has launched a new website offering “advice on sex and sexuality for migrants who have not been living long in Germany.”
Called “Zanzu: My body in words and images,” the site, which went live earlier this year, has 12 language options, including Arabic, Turkish, Albanian and English. It features sections on sexual health, relationships and emotions, family planning and legal issues – and a number of graphic diagrams, images and descriptions depicting all manner of sexual acts.
Launched in the wake of the notorious New Year’s Eve sex attacks, in which a large number of women trying to celebrate the New Year were assaulted by groups of single men believed to be migrants, the site has become a focal point for often angry discourse around the immigration issue.
Some commentators have praised Zanzu for its frank approach to sexuality, which they view as necessary to help refugees from conservative religious cultures integrate into Germany’s far more liberal society.
Others have criticised it as being patronising towards migrants. Heinz-Jürgen Voss, a sex scientist at the University of Merseburg, told the Washington Post it was “racist” to assume that Syrians and Iraqis, for instance, were less schooled than Germans when it came to sex.
“It’s important to promote this kind of open and free sexuality, to fight for it,” he added. “It’s not something that the state can force people to do, to live openly. But it needs to be negotiated.”
Blogger Anabel Schunke argued that the site would do little to address the problematic attitudes towards women and sex found among many male migrants: “These men know exactly what is and isn’t allowed, and they just do not care because they have anyway never interested the laws and culture of this country,” she wrote.
“It’s also terribly naive to think one could sweep away the socialisation and cultural conditioning experienced since early childhood with some nice little pictures and an integration course.”
There are fears that the material on the website could be used to further demonise Germany’s migrant and refugee communities. “Stand by for a huge upsurge in rape and sexual assault once the migrants get a look at these illustrations,” said one commentator on social media, typifying much of the racist commentary occurring around Zanzu. ”Being illiterate, they won’t be able to read the text – not that it would matter to them.”