Abstinence-based sex-education bill passes Commons vote

Abstinence: Dorries' bill is unlikely to become law but it has already stoked controversy
Abstinence: Dorries' bill is unlikely to become law but it has already stoked controversy

By Ian Dunt

A bill which would enforce the teaching of abstinence in sex education classes may progress in the Commons after MPs backed it.

Nadine Dorries, a Tory backbencher who is starting to gain a reputation for adopting Christian positions on moral issues, introduced the ten minute rule bill, which would "require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16" and "to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity".

The bill passed by 67 votes to 61, with the notable support of several members of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

"Peer pressure is a key contributor to early sexual activity in our country. Society is focused on sex. Teaching a child at the age of seven to apply a condom on a banana is almost saying: 'Now go and try this for yourself'," Ms Dorries told the Commons.

"Girls are taught to have safe sex, but not how to say no to a boyfriend who insists on sexual relations."

Labour MP Chris Bryant said the bill was "the daftest piece of legislation" he had ever seen.

"I am a gay man, so I'm not exactly an expert on heterosexual sex, nor on sex with girls. But this is not the way to solve any of those problems - for a start, it's just about girls. You've got to talk to the boys and the girls," he said.

The sex education (required content) bill is highly unlikely to become law. Even when ten minute rule bills are passed they generally join the lengthy queue of private members bill struggling for a second reading, which can only become law if the government allows it.

But the legislation serve to gain publicity for particular issues, and with Ms Dorries quickly trending on Twitter, she appeared to have secured valuable coverage for her actions.

"There is no good evidence to support the substance of this bill: abstinence education does not work," commented British Humanist Association head of public affairs Naomi Phillips.

"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."

The bill represents a new salvo for Ms Dorries as she tries to turn herself into a figure head for traditionalist religious Conservatives in parliament.

Earlier this year, she tried to introduce amendments to the health and social care bill with Frank Field which would have forced women going for abortions to have a conversation with someone who is not related to abortion providers.

While the change was considered moderate by many observers, abortion campaigners suggested it was part of a strategy by anti-abortionists to gradually chip away at abortion rights in the UK.


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.