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PinkNews joins campaign urging for compulsory, inclusive sex education

Joseph McCormick September 18, 2014

PinkNews has joined with a coalition of LGBT organisations and campaigners writing to political leaders in the UK to highlight a need for compulsory LGBT-inclusive Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in all schools.

The group includes Lord Fowler, Peter Tatchell and Dr Christian Jessen, as well as members of the LGBT media, sexual health charities and NGOs.

It highlights the rising impact poor sexual health is having on LGBT people, as well as mental health issues.

It notes that one in three gay men diagnosed with HIV in 2012 were in their teens or early 20s, yet 85% of gay and bisexual men say they do not receive any information about same-sex relationships in schools.

Kat Smithson, policy and campaigns manager at NAT (National AIDS Trust), the HIV charity which drafted the letter, said: ”One in three 16-24 year olds tell us they don’t know enough to prevent HIV transmission during sex, and at the same time HIV diagnoses amongst young gay men have doubled over the past ten years. Unless we start teaching young people in school about sexual health and about same sex relationships then we will only see these numbers increasing.”

The letter, and full list of signatories is available to read below

This month millions of young people are going back to school – but because of inadequate sex and relationships education (SRE) we as a society will fail to provide them with the essential knowledge and life skills they need to make informed and responsible decisions in regard to their sexual health. This is especially true for LGBTI young people.

To address this, pupils, health experts, and we the undersigned, are supporting the ‘SRE, it’s my right campaign’, calling on all political parties to commit to make age-appropriate SRE a statutory requirement for all schools.

Ofsted describes SRE in English schools as ‘not yet good enough’ – not surprising when teachers are not trained to deliver it and only a handful of biological facts are actually required in the curriculum. Sexual relationships, sexual health, and basic information on the sexual parts of the body can be neglected, even though in the wider world children are exposed to sexual content at an ever earlier age. The result? They get their information elsewhere, often from inappropriate, inadequate sources, or get no information at all. This leaves them ill-
prepared to make safer, fulfilling choices and resist sexual pressure and bullying.

If SRE is sub-standard for most young people, LGBTI young people’s needs are often ignored completely. 85% of gay and bisexual men tell us they received no information about same-sex relationships in school. And for 14-19 year-old gay and bisexual men, pornography is the most popular source of information on how to have enjoyable sex, and the second most popular source on sexual relationships and attraction. Without trustworthy education to help them sort fantasy from reality this could mean poor understanding of safer sex and sexual relationships.

In addition, 89% of LGBTI young people report learning nothing about bisexuality issues and 94% report learning nothing about transgender issues.

The consequences are stark. LGBTI young people are at greater risk of depression and suicidal thoughts. These can last into later life and can have a serious impact on sexual health, and on drink and drug use. Young people are being exposed to sexual situations without the support and basic sexual health information that the education system should be providing. One in three gay men diagnosed with HIV in 2012 were in their teens or early twenties.

We are all working for and committed to the well-being of the LGBTI community. We call on all political parties to commit to age-appropriate SRE which includes content on same-sex relationships. This should be provided in every school, for every young person, whether LGBTI or heterosexual. Equality and respect in adult life has to begin with equality and respect in the classroom.

Signed

Peter Tatchell

Dr Christian Jessen

Lord Norman Fowler

Cliff Joannou, QX magazine

Susie Parsons, National AIDS Trust

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Terrence Higgins Trust

Tris Reid-Smith, GayStarNews

Andrew Fraser, Attitude magazine

Elly Barnes, Educate and Celebrate

Rob Cookson, The Lesbian & Gay Foundation

Jane Czyzselska, DIVA magazine & BACP registered counsellor

Darren Scott, GT magazine

Benjamin Cohen, Pink News

Tom Doyle, Yorkshire MESMAC

Suran Dickson, Diversity Role Models

Paul Fleming, Positive East

Dr Greg Ussher, Metro Charity

Lukasz Konieczka, Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre

Trevor Martin, Gaydar

Nik Noone, GALOP

Jay Stewart, Gendered Intelligence

Simon Topham, Millivres Prowler Group

Ruth Hunt, Stonewall

Simon Blake OBE, Brook

More: AIDS, Gay Times, HIV, HIV charity, LGBT, mental health, NAT, national aids trust, PinkNews, relationship, sex education, sexual health, SRE, sres, STI

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