- Protest against the sexist 'abstinence education bill'
- Fight for comprehensive, fact based sex and relationships education'
- Stop all cuts to jobs and services and attacks on women's rights
Tory MP Nadine Dorries' Private Members Bill will "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". The Bill, called "Sex Education (Required Content) Bill 2010-11" is scheduled for a second reading on 20 January 2012.
The bill is sexist as it positions girls as being solely responsible for decisions about sexual activity and boys as having no responsibility for ensuring that sex is mutually wanted, fully consenting and safe. Dorries even said that teaching children to 'say no' could reduce child abuse. This victim blaming is dangerous, incorrect, and offensive to survivors of abuse.
Abstinence education on its own is ineffective in reducing teenage pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) rates. Good quality Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) should already explicitly address the option of abstinence as part of decision-making about sex and safer sex.
SRE should be informative and fact based. Some of the most important bits of SRE, which really help young people to take responsibility for themselves and make healthy decisions (namely the relationships and communication aspects), are optional for schools and this bill will not change that. If this bill passes, some schools could end up only teaching the biology of reproduction and sexual health (within the science curriculum) plus abstinence.
If Dorries really wanted to help young women to stay safe and healthy she would be advocating statutory, comprehensive sex and relationships education for all young people, of all genders, and in all schools whether they are faith schools, academies, free schools or community schools. Her party in Government has already stated that they have no intention of making SRE statutory.
This bill comes at the same time as a host of other attacks on women's rights and living standards. The cuts programme disproportionately affects women. 70% of public sector workers are women and the majority of users of public services are women. The pressure of unemployment has pushed some women into sex work. Cuts in housing benefits, tax credits and pregnancy benefits have hit women hard. Domestic violence support services are under threat of closure.
With the abolition of EMA, massive hikes in tuition fees and cuts in funding, especially for arts courses, many young working-class women in particular will find further and higher education closed to them.
In a blatant ideological attack, existing abortion rights have been threatened, with attempts by Nadine Dorries, to reduce the time limits and, more recently, to make pre-abortion counselling compulsory and to hand it over to Christian anti-abortion groups.
The government tries to blame social problems on 'problem families', mainly meaning women. They want to use the crisis as an excuse to put us 'back in our place'. But the real problem is them and their cuts. Working class people - young, old, women, men - have to unite to fight them. Every blow against this government is a blow against the cuts so join 'Stop Dorries' abstinence for girls sex education bill' and Youth Fight for Jobs on 20 January 10:30am, Old Palace Yard, Westminster to stop this bill and stand up for our rights.
- Stop the bill! Women, young people, teachers, the trade unions and campaign groups should unite to stop this sexist legislation
- Introduce a comprehensive, fact based sex and relationships education to the national curriculum
- No exceptions! Academies, free schools and faith schools should not be able to opt out of any aspect of the national curriculum. Bring all of these schools back under local government control.
- End victim blaming. For education in schools, workplaces and trade unions about the myths and facts of sexual abuse
- Stop the cuts to sexual health services. We need investment in the NHS to ensure all young people can access vital advice and treatment
- Build a mass campaign against all cuts and attacks on women's rights