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paul-scott
25th October 2015

Better sex education key to tackling sexual assaults, campaigners say

Campaigners call on government to reform sex education, claiming current system leaves many unprepared

The growing problem of sexual assaults on the country’s university campuses has fuelled calls to reform sex education for adolescents. In an era of ‘lad culture’ where objectification and degradation of women is rife on campuses, campaigners insist the consequences of systemic sex education failures are clear to see.

The Sex Education Forum (SEF) claims that many incidents of sexual harassment and confusion over consent derive from a poor or non-existent sex education earlier in life. The forum asserts that the most effective means for tackling these issues is prevention through a comprehensive sex education programme—implemented earlier on—that will produce better informed and more responsible adults.

Many young adults today characterise their sex education experience as vague and biologically-centred, barely touching on issues of consent or the emotional implications of sex.

The term ‘consent’ has become increasingly problematic and the varying notions of what people perceive as consent are “as starkly different as they are concerning” one female student said. In a 2014 survey, only one third of respondents said they had learned about consent during their sex education.

These hazy perceptions around what can be considered consensual or non-consensual sex are, according to campaigners, indisputable symptoms of a society that is in desperate need of an earlier and better sex education.

In spite of this new pressure to reform sex education in British schools, it is still not even a mandatory part of the UK school curriculum; many students do not even receive teaching under the current system that campaigners deem to be inadequate.

The SEF and other campaigners are asking the question: “When people are never taught what consent means or what is respectful behaviour towards others is, how can we expect them to act appropriately?” A recent survey showed that at the beginning of this academic year, 17 per cent of students had been sexually whilst two-thirds of that group did not know how to report their abuse. A different poll has shown that one in seven female students are sexually assaulted in the UK during their time at university.

Campaigners say these statistics are unacceptable and Universities UK echoed their sentiments, saying there must be a “zero tolerance” approach.

As evidence showing the prevalence sexual assault mounts, campaigners argue that there needs to be a conversation about sex education; one that will pressure the government to make it compulsory, occur earlier in children’s lives and provide useful, life-long guidance that goes beyond how to open a condom packet.


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