The UK government recently voted not to reform sex and relationship education in our country, notably leaving “same-sex relationships, sexual violence, domestic violence and sexual consent” out of the curriculum.
This absolutely horrified me: talking to my brother (who left high school last summer) it strikes me that virtually nothing has changed about sex education since I was at school ten years ago, despite the astounding developments we’ve made since then.
A legal partnership has been recognised between two men and two women in this country for more than half a decade – and yet we don’t teach our children about homophobia, biphobia and same-sex relationships – why? Isn’t that just asking for our more progressive laws to be trampled all over by the MPs of the future?
Brook, a sexual health charity that works with young people, reported in “Sex and Relationships Education Fit for the 21st Century” on Ofsted’s decision that sex and relationship education is “not yet good enough”, which only backs up their own research.
Public Health England reported earlier this month that half a million new sexually transmitted infections were diagnosed in 2012, which is a 5% rise and telling of how urgently we need to review what we’re telling young people about sex and staying safe. We have to be sure that we’re getting the message out effectively – and quickly, before teenagers start to experiment on their own and find themselves potentially saddled with infections that could leave them infertile.
I generally consider myself a sex-positive person, and although I generally try to avoid picking up an infection myself, I won’t judge people who do have diagnoses – but even I think it’s wrong that a child could end up with an infection that could render them infertile because the Government decided they didn’t need to know how to protect themselves.
And that’s just safer sex – the areas specifically mentioned by New Clause 20 are almost more important: in not passing this clause for further reading, our MPs essentially decided that we don’t need to explain to children the complicated mess that is consent and domestic and sexual violence. Just how are we going to make a dent in those rape and DV figures, which (whilst above zero) are far too high?
We don’t have to promote sex and relationships – we simply need to prepare children and young people, so that when they are ready to engage in relationships of their own, they have the knowledge they need to go about it safely and with respect for other people.
Children and young people themselves have said that they want more information about sex and relationships, and in rejecting NC20, the government is actively flying in the face of that. Well, they aren’t of voting age, so their thoughts don’t matter, right?
The good news is that the shadow leader of the House of Lords has taken the decision to raise the question of sex and relationship education again. There’s still an opportunity to make noise about it, and hopefully, this time, ensure that mandatory SRE makes it into schools someday soon. Brook has more information and we need to be pushing to make sure politicians understand the views of UK citizens.