Monday, 24 October 2011

‘Safe at school ?’

This week we’ll be posting daily blogs about Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) focusing on those organisations and campaigns which oppose inclusive, comprehensive SRE. A number of anti-abortion groups and ‘family-values’ campaigners are fighting against what they consider to be ‘explicit’ sex education in schools and attempting to curtail young people’s access to factual, impartial information about sex, contraception, pregnancy and abortion. This week’s blogs will look in greater detail at what exactly such groups would like our children to be learning.

Lessons from the US: We only have to look to the States to see how those who oppose abortion often have a much wider conservative agenda. For example, anti-choice Republican Michele Bachmann’s ‘moral’ opposition to the life-saving HPV vaccine which she saw as a plot to sexualise ‘innocent little girls’. Or campaigns to defund Planned Parenthood which were ostensibly aimed at preventing government money being spent on abortion, but will, in effect, eradicate contraceptive services. Since contraceptive provision can help reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions this might look like a bit of a logic fail, but actually it’s part of a wider campaign by organisations that are as opposed to condoms as they are to abortion.

Scratch the surface of individuals and groups with an interest in curtailing women’s reproductive rights and too often you expose an underbelly of misogyny and  homophobia  and a zealous belief in the importance of ‘the family’ (i.e. heterosexual marriage) at the expense of all other relationships. These are viewpoints that people are entitled to hold and to express on blogs, but our concern is when such sentiments have a danger of crossing over into the classroom and creating a stigmatising or unsafe environment for young people learning about sex and relationships.

A number of increasingly vocal groups have been speaking out against comprehensive SRE in the UK and have been gaining airspace and even political support. The SRE Council, a body of organisations promoting abstinence-only style sex education, gained the public approval of education secretary Michael Gove  (this within days of anti-abortion group LIFE’s appointment to the Department of Health’s Sexual Health Forum). Anti-abortion organisation SPUC have founded ‘Safe at School’, a campaign against ‘explicit sex education’ in schools which has been featured in local press; and just last week anti comprehensive SRE campaigner Lynne Burrows went unchallenged on a BBC TV show when she accused sex educators of being akin to paedophiles.

Some of these groups do not just oppose evidence-based and comprehensive sex education, but also have strong views about contraception, homosexuality and marriage.

With so many victories for the anti-choice movement in the States, and with the UK political climate seemingly receptive to abstinence-only and anti-abortion campaigners we are concerned that this minority will seek to gain further influence over what happens in our classrooms. In the next four days we’ll post blogs looking at exactly what these groups and others campaigning against comprehensive SRE have said about these topics and pose the question – what would they like our children to learn?

If you want to help EFC campaign against misinformation in schools please text EDFC22 followed by the amount you wish to donate (e.g. EDFC22 £20) to 70070 or visit our Just Giving page to make a regular donation.

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