Opinion Former Article

BHA: MPs vote through first stage of 'abstinence education for girls' Sex Education Bill

MPs have voted 67 - 61 in favour of a controversial Bill introduced by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, which wants schools to ensure that sex education for girls includes 'information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity'.

At this first stage debated today, Wednesday 4th May, the Bill was supported in the vote by a number of MP members of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, an influential and socially conservative group within the Party. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has described the vote as 'disheartening' and has stated that 'abstinence education does not work'.

The 10 Minute Rule Bill, a Private Members Bill, will have its second reading early in 2012. Labour MP Chris Bryant, who introduced his own Sex and Relationship Education Bill in 2010 which sought comprehensive Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in schools, spoke in the House of Commons to oppose the abstinence education Bill, and he described the Bill on Twitter as 'ludicrous'.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips commented, 'There is no good evidence to support the substance of this Bill: abstinence education does not work. Not only is this Bill misguided, it focuses only on girls and negates and overlooks the important role of boys and young men in forming safe, fulfilling and consensual sexual relationships. All children and young people have a right to high quality, comprehensive and objective SRE in all schools, including 'faith' schools, which would and should equip young people - both boys and girls - with the information and skills to say no to sexual activity if that is what they choose. High quality PSHE and SRE is what we would like to see more of our elected representatives working towards, rather than voting in favour of measures which seek to teach biased perspectives to girls in schools.

'While it is undoubtedly disheartening that MPs have voted through the first stage of this Bill, it is unlikely to progress any further than its Second Reading stage next year. What this unfortunate Bill and vote illustrates however, is the influence of a growing lobby with vested interests in promoting and imposing a narrow, unshared and potentially damaging perspective regarding sex, sexual health and abortion rights. It is ever-more important for those, both in and outside of parliament, who are committed to promoting children and young people's rights to high quality SRE in all schools, including in 'faith' schools, to work together to ensure that it becomes a reality.'

Notes

For further comment or information contact Naomi Phillips at naomi@humanism.org.uk or 020 7079 3585.

Read more about our work on SRE and PSHE http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/sex-and-relationships-education

Text of the 10 Minute Rule Bill : 'Sex Education (Required Content): That leave be given to bring in 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.'

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

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