Speaking exclusively to PinkNews.co.uk, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he’s “very concerned” by recent revelations of several schools having Section 28-style language in their sex education policies and he believes poor sex education represents a danger to children.
The Liberal Democrat leader was asked by PinkNews.co.uk about last month’s claims by the British Humanist Association that more than 40 schools had polices in place targeting the “promotion” of homosexuality – reminiscent of Section 28.
He replied: “I am concerned about that – very concerned – that’s absolutely not what should be happening. I actually think the most important thing of all is what goes on in the playground – how children talk to each other and are encouraged to talk to each other about love and about relationships – I think that is an immensely important area – and generally we are a bit out-of-date in the ways in which we provide guidance to schools to talk about sex and relationships.”
Mr Clegg went on to say: “There’s an issue about how new technologies now intrude on the way young people are sometimes expected to act with each other.” Mr Clegg pondered: “Is that something which requires new legislation? I’m not actually sure it can be settled with the stroke of a legislative pen – but it is certainly something I think that public figures in politics and outside of politics can speak out to ensure we really entrench this change so it is not just a legislative change but a change that actually means something in the way we interact with each other every day.”
Mr Clegg agreed that better sex education in schools is needed. “Yes absolutely, the last time sex and relationship guidance was updated was 13 years ago and the world is a very different place now. Everyone needs to be quite vigilant [because] there is a lot of institutionalised reluctance to keep up to date with things and that’s an area where we let our children down and actually we create dangers for our children – not just health dangers but wider dangers if we are not open with kids in keeping with the kind of environment which they now inhabit.”
With equal marriage cementing the UK’s reputation for having transformed its position on LGBT rights within the space of a decade, Mr Clegg said it gave the country ‘moral authority’ in raising the issue, for instance with Russia, where LGBT freedoms have been reversed in recent months and years.
“Interestingly enough it’s not what you say it’s what you do. I think the fact that we have set an example of what we do – not just what we say – is probably the most powerful signal of all – it means we speak with a moral authority that we couldn’t before. The fact that we have done these things now and entirely changed the statute book from one that was riddled with discrimination to one which is now distinguished by equality – I think that is the best lead we can give – it’s leading by doing.”
When asked how it felt to achieve equal marriage for England and Wales, Mr Clegg told PinkNews.co.uk: “It feels fantastic because in many ways this was the kind of campaign; the kind of cause; the kind of change – which a lot of people said at the beginning ‘well you are not really going to get it through’. ‘Why are you going to spend so much time on this?’ ‘There are obviously so many other difficult things the government needs to deal with these days particularly on the economy’ – so it feels like a real vindication, having dug our heels and said ‘no, this is something we really want to do’ – not withstanding all the other things the government wants to do – and do quickly – it feels like a real achievement which indeed it is.”
“What’s so exciting is that it’s not a parliamentary achievement; it’s achievement of campaigners inside Parliament as well as outside Parliament and it is very much a reflection of the much more liberal – with a small ‘l’ – much more emancipated attitudes of modern Britain than many people allowed for.”
Mr Clegg agreed it was a good example of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives working together on the same policy. “Yeah, I was the first party leader of the main parties on PinkNews.co.uk to come out unambiguously in favour of equal marriage and of course it was something that my party adopted as party policy after the 2010 general election. So to be able to move from a debate in Liberal Democrat conference debating halls within a matter of months really to final debate on the shape of the legislation on the floor of the House of Commons – that’s a very exciting thing to do.”