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‘We need a sex education revolution’, says MP

MUST BE TACKLED: Over sexualising children

BRITAIN NEEDS a sexual education revolution to tackle growing incidents of ‘sexting’, bullying in schools and attempts to over sexualise children, shadow health minister Diane Abbot says.

In a speech yesterday (January 22) to the Fabian Women’s Network, Abbott warned that more effort is needed to stem ‘the rise of a “secret garden, strip-tease culture‟ in British schools and society- being fed by fast-developing technology and “an increasingly ‘pornified’ British culture”.

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in east London highlighted research showing that 27 per cent of boys, some as young as age 8, are accessing pornography every week.

She also raised concerns about the rise of so-called ‘slut shaming’ in schools, where vulnerable students are bullied and publicly humiliated via phone and online.

“There are series of modern issues that schools and families must confront – such as the rise of “sexting‟ and “slut-shaming‟ in schools,” Abbott outlined. “Mobile phones allow young people easy access to all kinds of online content, regardless of whether or not it is appropriate. Mobile phones are also being used for so-called “sexting‟ – the sending, often unsolicited, of sexually explicit messages.”

She cited research suggesting that as many as 40 percent of young people could have done some of form of sexting- that is sending explicit images phone messages.

In addition, data from charity Beatbullying showed nearly one third (28 percent) of 11-to-16-year-olds have been deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated by an individual or group through the use of mobile phones or the Internet.

”…I think one of the symptoms of the culture that has grown is that young girls and women are subject to "slut shaming" and sexual bullying in schools. The truth is that slut-shaming shames us all.”

CONCERNED: Diane Abbott

“There seems to be a blurred distinction between sexting and bullying”, she explained, with society now using new technologies to enforce an age-old double standard in which sexually active boys are to be admired while sexually active girls are denigrated and despised as “sluts‟.

Abbott said: ”Girls feel coerced into sharing pictures. Boyfriends normalise it – it’s the whole 'If you really love me’ argument. And it’s often basic sexism, with girls being seen as boys’ property.”

She said: “It’s a hyper-sexualized British culture in which women are objectified, objectify one another, and are encouraged to objectify themselves; where homophobic bullying is normalised; and young boys’ world view is shaped by hardcore American pornography and other dark corners of the internet.”

Abbott said deep change should come in the way Britain teaches young people about sex and relationships.

“Parents and teachers have a duty to ensure that children develop a healthy view of sexuality, distinct from this porn version that is swamping and infiltrating British life,” she said. “We need a sex education revolution in ordinary British schools. We need to look at Statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education and Sex and Relationships Education (SRE).”

Abbott added: “Sex education must focus on preparing young people to form healthy, respectful, emotionally fulfilling relationships, and also deal with issues of self-esteem.

“Schools should encourage girls to value their bodies in terms of their physical ability. We need more (Olympic stars such as) Jessica Ennis, less (scandal hit celebrities such as) Paris Hilton.”

She added: “We need to look at how gender equality issues could be more central on the educational agenda, and throughout the curriculum.”

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