Beth Granter

Freelance digital consultant for charities

Feminists celebrate failure of abstinence education for girls bill… and move on to the next fight

On Friday 20 January, I organised a demonstration against Tory MP Nadine Dorries’ Sex Education (required content) Bill 185, and announced a victory for the campaign mid way through the protest, to cheers from the crowd. It was reported that the Bill had suddenly been withdrawn from the parliamentary order paper (schedule), effectively killing it dead.

Around 250 people turned up to protest against the Bill, which would have required girls aged 13-16 to be given compulsory abstinence lessons, as part of their sex education. Over 2,000 people joined a campaign against the Bill on Facebook. As well as The Socialist Party and Youth Fight for Jobs and Education, the opposition was supported by the British Humanist Association, Abortion Rights UK, Education for Choice, the National Secular Society, Feminist Fightback, Queers Against the Cuts, Slut Means Speak Up, and others.

The Bill had many problems – it was sexist by being just for girls, and abstinence-only education has been proven not to work in reducing unplanned pregnancies and STIs. As the majority of comprehensive sex and relationships education (SRE) is not currently compulsory, many schools, particularly academies and religious schools, don’t have to teach comprehensive SRE, meaning that the Bill effectively could have meant abstinence-only education for many.

Although the Bill had little chance of passing its second reading due to scheduling, opposition was rallied in order to raise awareness of the need for statutory, evidence based, comprehensive SRE.

However, Dorries is threatening her intentions might become part of another bill she puts through, so whilst celebrating the success in defeating this Bill, campaigners are keeping an eye on Dorries and her Tory Government, as we know we haven’t heard the last of their attacks on womens’ rights, education and sexual liberation.

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