Petition calls for sex education in schools to include LGBT
A petition calling for "better, more consistent" sex education in secondary schools has been handed to Parliament.
More than 5000 people have signed a petition started by 17-year-old high school students Lauren Jack and Ruby Medlicott, which was presented to Labour MP Grant Robertson outside Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
The petition calls for Education Minister Nikki Kaye to make consent and healthy relationships a compulsory part of the curriculum, and was started after comments encouraging rape and degrading women emerged from two Wellington College students in March.
"Many of us teenagers, still in high school, have experienced sexual harassment, sometimes within school environments," Jack said.
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"We're scared, we assume that this will be a part of our lives, and it doesn't come as a surprise when we're catcalled or people make jokes about rape. We don't want to live in a world where rape culture is normal any more."
Petitioners want to see a healthy relationships course for secondary school students called Mates and Dates introduced into all high schools, and the inclusion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the curriculum.
"We believe as young people that a change needs to be made now," the petition states.
"We believe addressing the issue in schools is an important first step. These are issues that LGBTQI+ people are often excluded from. However, they are heavily affected by rape culture, and so we think it is important to include them in how these issues are addressed."
Jack said: "According to the stats, one in three girls experience sexual assault before the age of 16. The same goes for one in seven boys.
"Whenever you hear about comments that are made or examples of rape culture in New Zealand it always comes with a bit of a shock, as normalised as it is, it is still very unpleasant to hear about. It made us feel like something needs to be done."
The pair had had a lot of support with most responses to the petition being supportive.
"It is really humbling the support we've been getting," Jack said.
Medlicott said even before they had handed in the petition there had been much discussion coming out around sex education and the issues surrounding consent, and healthy relationships.
"Even that and the amount of support we've seen is so motivating, and fantastic."
She hoped the Government would either increase funding for Mates and Dates, or commit to doing something to get consistent, comprehensive sex education in schools.
"I think it's just so important putting an end to rape culture, and this is one of the ways it can be done. If we're able to educate younger generations over time we'll see a generational change in the attitude of New Zealanders."
Kaye commended the girls for their campaign.
"We need more young women like them prepared to stand up and call out behaviour that is inappropriate, disrespectful and above all, wrong."
The Government understood the important role that sexuality education had to play in society, which was why it was one of the seven key area of learning in the Health and Physical Education curriculum.
It also invested in separate programmes like Mates and Dates to provide additional support in the area.
Schools were required to teach sex education, which was compulsory up to year 10 and covered relationships as part of the curriculum.
Guidelines on how to deliver sexuality education were updated in 2015 and made it clear that sexuality education should cover aspects such as consent, coercion, sexual violence and safety in intimate relationships.
As minister, Kaye said she was always keen to see where there were areas the Government could improve.