On the 20th of January (this coming Friday), Nadine Dorries MP’s sex education bill requiring schools to discuss abstinence in the classroom with girls gets its second reading. The summary of the bill taken from the UK Parliament website is as follows:
A Bill to require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes.
In her blog entry following the first reading on May 4th 2011 (it was passed 67-61 votes) she explains the reasons for presenting the bill. She states that,
“I am not seeking to diminish sex education as taught at present, but to include the empowering option that young girls can just say no. In school, children are taught to base the decision whether or not to have sex on their feelings and wishes. I don’t believe young girls under the age of 16 have consistent feelings and that they can change from day to day. My bill was about making boys wait being an empowering and cool thing for girls to do and that it should be taught as a viable, if not preferable option for girls aged 16 and under – especially as sex at that age is unlawful.”
Irrespective of any religious beliefs someone may have about teenage sex, I find it very hard to see how anyone can argue against giving girls the chance to consider the benefits of holding back from sexual activity at a young age. Any sexual engagement for young people obviously carries the risks of pregnancy, subsequent abortion and the contraction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The number of reported STIs by sexual health clinics in the UK is increasing rapidly year on year with 482,900 recorded in 2009. Two thirds of these cases were females aged 15 to 24. Many studies have shown that young adults are more likely to have unsafe sex and that they often lack the skills and confidence to negotiate safer methods. There have been conflicting studies about whether early sexual activity causes long term mental health issues, but surely there is less chance of this in any form, if a young person is abstaining from rather than having sex. The UK has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate in the world behind the US and the highest teenage abortion rate in western Europe. This strongly suggests that the current sex and relationship education (SRE) in schools is not particularly effective. More focus by educators towards young people thinking carefully about the implications of engaging in sexual activity has to be of value.
Not entirely surprisingly, the National Secular Society is opposing this bill. In fact, they will be supporting a demonstration outside Parliament on the 20th to protest against it. You can read their objections here. Something has fundamentally shifted in our society’s moral values (and not for the better) over the last few decades. For centuries abstinence was seen as the norm outside of marriage, but now in some circles any form of abstinence is seen as totally outdated and something even to be fought against. When did we decide that ideology was more important than the well being of our children?
If you believe that this bill is of value, then I would recommend that you contact your local MP to encourage them to support the bill. You can find your MP’s details here.