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Petitioning Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband and 1 other

Commit to making sex and relationships education in schools compulsory, to include sexual consent, healthy and respectful relationships, gender stereotypes and online pornography

Young people are growing up bombarded with negative and conflicting messages about sex, relationships and gender roles. From Blurred Lines to lads' mags, online pornography to  sexting, the Lad Bible to Page 3, our culture routinely portrays women as  dehumanised and sexualised, and men as sexual aggressors, normalising misogynistic and even abusive behaviour towards women and girls.

This is the context in which 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year and 400,000 sexually assaulted. Meanwhile, according to the NSPCC, 25% of young women over 13 experience physical violence and and 72% experience emotional abuse in their own relationships.

For many girls and young women, abuse and harassment by boyfriends and friends, male family members as well as men on the street and in the community are part of their daily experience as EVAW’s Schools Safe 4 Girls campaign shows all too well. A 2010 YouGov survey for EVAW  found that almost one third of 16-18 year old girls in the UK had been subjected to unwanted sexual touching at school and 71% of all 16-18 year olds hear sexual name calling such as 'slut' or 'slag' towards girls at school at least a few times a week. ‘Sexting’ is often coercive and non-consensual, with girls far more likely to be affected. It was recently reported that over 1000 alleged sexual offences in schools, including 134 rapes, were recorded by the Police in 2013. More than half were committed by other children.

Thousands of young  people have shared their experiences of harassment and assault on the Everyday Sexism Project website, including many who experience ‘groping’ and harassment on a regular basis at school or on their way to school. Many describe confusion and misunderstandings around rape and consent, with children hearing phrases such as 'rape is a compliment really' in the classroom. Girls explain that online pornography has left them afraid of having sex because they have seen videos where women are crying and getting hurt, and there is no information elsewhere to offset the idea that this is simply the expected norm. In fact 60% of young people say they are first exposed to pornography aged 14 years or younger and young people's exposure to pornography is linked to unrealistic attitudes about sex; beliefs that women are sex objects; and sexist attitudes.

For boys, too, the bombardment of sexist content both on and offline sends confusing and negative messages about their role in relationships, leaving them in need of support and information that often simply isn’t provided.

Some parents and schools already provide excellent guidance and information, but the current provision is patchy with a focus on teaching girls to say ‘no’ rather than teaching non-abusive behaviour, which risks reinforcing victim-blaming attitudes. Many young people receive no support at all on these vital issues, and this is too important to be left to chance.

All primary and secondary schools in England should be required to teach students about issues such as sexual consent, healthy and respectful relationships, gender stereotypes and online porn in an age-appropriate manner as part of Personal Social Health and Economic (PSHE) education. This needs to be backed up with statutory guidance and teacher training, formulated in consultation with relevant expert organisations, and be part of broader work to prevent abuse of women and girls. The general election in 2015 provides the perfect opportunity for Party Leaders to put child protection first by committing to such a law.

 

(Image courtesy of Marlith, Wikimedia Commons:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Classroom.JPG?uselang=en-gb)

 

This petition was delivered to:
  • Labour Party Leader
    Ed Miliband
  • David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and other Party Leaders


    Laura Bates started this petition with a single signature, and now has 36,861 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.




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