Sex & Relationships Education – we have a duty to ensure that teenagers understand consent

Tomorrow, a new clause to the Children and Families Bill, tabled by Labour shadow ministers Lisa Nandy, Stella Creasey and Sharon Hodgson will be voted upon in the House of Commons. Clause 20 is attempting to put relationships on the agenda for compulsory sex education instead of leaving the focus solely on the mechanics and biology of sex and sexual health.

Voting for this amendment is an important chance to ensure that the next generation grow up with clearer ideas of what constitutes sexual consent, a healthy relationship and sexual abuse. Historic cases of domestic abuse and sexual assault are currently regularly reported on in the media. This bill represents a chance to do something practical about protecting potential future victims.

Recent research has shown that there is a dire lack of understanding about acceptable behaviour in the vulnerable teenage age group:

*Women’s Aid & Avon found that 50% of 16-18 year olds wouldn’t know where to go to get support if affected by domestic abuse

*18% were unsure or didn’t believe that slapping counted as domestic violence

*A YouGov poll in 2010 showed that almost a third of 16-18-year-old girls said that they had been subjected to unwanted sexual touching at school

*The NSPCC found that a third of girls in relationships aged 13-17 have experienced physical or sexual violence in relationship, with one in 16 of this group reporting experiencing rape.

Whilst every parent would hope that their child would never need to worry about these issues, surely they would prefer that their child was forearmed if the situation did arise. We’ve been teaching children about ‘stranger danger’ for decades, but they also need to be warned that certain types of behaviour from people that they know and love are also unacceptable.

There can be no British stiff-upper-lip excuse for avoiding these issues. We need to ensure that the moral lines concerning trust and acceptable behaviour in relationships are clear to both boys and girls.

Hiding sexual abuse away and failing to discuss it has been proven to be a woefully neglectful tactic. Abusers, although immoral and shameful, will always be out there – just as murderers, thieves and fraudsters will be. We have a responsibility to teach the young people of today how to identify inappropriate sexual behaviour and protect themselves.

The campaign is being supported by One Billion Rising UK  and the #Yes2NC20 tag is being used to collate responses to the campaign on Twitter. The campaign has also been supported by Jo Hayman, Chief Executive of the PSHE Association.