Peter Tatchell: Labour’s sex education plans don’t go far enough

Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has said that Labour’s plans to crack down on homophobic bullying in schools don’t go far enough.

Earlier this week, Labour announced plans to make Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) compulsory in all state schools, in a bid to tackle homophobia and sexual abuse.

The plan, will ensure all teachers are trained to deal with homophobic bullying, as well as as making age-appropriate SRE more LGBT inclusive, and compulsory in all state-funded schools, including academies, free schools and voluntary aided institutions.

However, Peter Tatchell has said that the announcement “side steps” the most important issue, by allowing parents to withdraw their children from SRE.

He said: “The one issue the new Labour initiative side-steps is the current right of parents to withdraw their children from SRE if they object to them receiving information about reproduction, safer sex, LGBT issues, contraception and abortion.

“Why should parents be able to deny their children the right to information to debunk ignorance and prejudice and to ensure they have happy, healthy sexual and emotional lives?

“I thought school was about preparing young people for adult life. Love, sex and relationships are some of the most important aspects of most people’s lives. Yet millions of young people grow up sexually and emotionally illiterate.

“The result? Dysfunctional, miserable relationships and unfulfilled sexual and emotional needs; leading to anxiety, depression and other manifestations of mental ill-health. Plus drug and alcohol abuse.

“This is the shocking price we pay for half-baked SRE and the right of parents to pull their kids out of SRE classes.

“Labour and other parties should pledge to either scrap the parental opt-out completely or require parents to come to the school and physically take their child out of each SRE lesson.

“The latter option would preserve the right of parents to withdraw their children but require them to make an effort.

“In all likelihood, the number of kids being taken out of SRE would plummet which, from a child welfare point of view, would be a damn good thing.”

Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt mocked the Daily Mail, after the paper’s front page warned: “Children aged five will have sex education classes if Labour win the election”.