LGBT+ Sexual Health Education in New Zealand Curriculum
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The guidelines of the New Zealand Health Education Curriculum do not enforce any specific teachings to take place withing the health classroom. The sex education is very irresolute in terms of what it says teachers should teach their students. It provides information that you may teach about but nothing that is set in concrete. It also relies on the school itself to organise the sex education curriculum and for the school to consult with parents and members of the community. The curriculum guidelines strongly urge for schools to include Maori and Pasifika sex education and to teach hetero-normative teachings in terms of reproduction. This push to involve only specific types of sex education can lead to an insufficient or limited curriculum in terms of LGBT+ youth which can lead to dangerous situations and alienation of students in terms of what is appropriate and accepted in society. By not having strict guidelines which all schools should follow, the sexual health education curriculum is making it easier for LGBT+ students to become alienated from the rest of the school community as unlike heterosexual and cisgender students, it is easier for schools to brush over LGBT+ sexual health education and thus that their sexuality is normal and accepted.
According to a New Zealand Youth2000 study concerning the health and well-being of LGBT+ youth at school compared to heterosexual youth at school, 57.9% of same/both-sex attracted youth had been afraid that they would be physically hurt or harassed at school one or more times throughout the year and that 43.3% of same/both-sex students had been intentionally physically harmed at school in the past year. By allowing the exclusion of LGBT+ education, schools and the Ministry of Education are therefore allowing their LGBT+ student community to be fearful and discriminated against. By excluding and not enforcing the inclusion of LGBT+ sexual health education, the Ministry of Education is allowing LGBT+ students to feel as if they don't belong within their school community and can enforce this way of thinking in heterosexual and cisgender students as they are not being exposed to other expressions of gender and sexuality. 40% of transgender students had significant depressive symptoms and just under half had intentionally self-harmed within the previous year. One in five transgender students attempted suicide the year before the study was released and have the highest suicide rate out of any other sexuality or gender expression. By not having any education that is inclusive of transgender students, transgender students are unsupported and are not being taught that how they feel is acceptable. Instead they are glossed over in the health education curriculum, leaving them susceptible to feel alienated from their peers in the classroom and can leave other non-transgender students discriminating against their trans-gender peers. LGBT+ students are also more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases due to the insufficient or limited education. The Youth2000 study showed that despite 52.1% of LGBT+ students being sexually active, or had had intercourse, compared to 41% of heterosexual students, 53.8% of same-sex oriented male students used a condom the last time they had intercourse leaving 46.2% of same-sex oriented male students being exposed to STD’s and the threat of HIV. Many LGBT+ students are also unaware of what constitutes as sexual intercourse as they are only taught intercourse in terms or reproduction. This means that a larger percent of LGBT+ students could be sexually active and not be aware of it. This also means that many LGBT+ students could be exposing themselves to sexually transmitted diseases and not be aware that they are doing so due to the insufficient education provided for them.
By including stricter guidelines in the health curriculum, LGBT+ students will be taught sufficient sexual health education and would lower the risk of contracting STD's due to their education. It would also lead to LGBT+ students feeling more included as them and their peers would be taught that it is acceptable for students to fall on the LGBT+ spectrum. This has the possibility to lower the suicide and depression rates of LGBT+ students, leading to a better quality of life.
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