Thursday, May 26, 2011

like literacy taught by illiterates

The government has decided to abolish the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV and set up a new group to help with policy. The seat held on the old forum by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service has been given to the anti-abortion group Life.

At the same time, there was a parliamentary launch for the Sex and Relationships Education Council, an umbrella group of anti-abortionists, homophobes and abstinence promoters, with a resounding endorsement from Education Secretary Michael Gove.

One member, Christian abstinence advocates Silver Ring Thing, say they want to see "value-based, parent centred" sex education. Which is odd given that most times people have sex they would feel that something has gone wrong - in some instances even crossed the lines of the biologically impossible - if they ended up becoming parents as a result.

Of course, we know what they mean by 'value', and the most cursory look at their materials shows it; heterosexual patriarchal monogamous marriage. It's interesting to note their use of 'value' in the singular, like they've subconsciously wanted to be clear that there is one God, one model of sexual relationship, and all else shall burn in a lake of eternal fire.

Not that it's actually all overtly religious, as The F Word points out

Challenge Team UK, one of the organisations on the Council, is not a Christian organisation. Their volunteers are so passionate about the choice they have made to save their virginity until marriage, which is their choice so fair play to them, that they want to tell the world about it.

The FAQ part of the website includes, to my non-religious eyes, a fairly sensible question: “What if you save sex for marriage and then find out that you are sexually incompatible?” To this the answer is “Men and women are sexually compatible.”

But all these seats on panels and pressure groups is just an advisory thing, it's doesn't translate into actual real-world influence does it?

In Richmond, south-west London, the Catholic Children's Society has taken over the £89,000 contract to provide advice to schoolchildren on matters including contraception and pregnancies. Another Christian-run charity, Care Confidential, is involved in providing crisis pregnancy advice under the auspices of Newham PCT in east London.

This is not just about a clash of values, it's about outcomes. Abstinence-only sex education actually causes greater teenage pregnancies and STIs. Evidence published in the British Medical Journal shows that abstinence-based programmes

were associated with an increase in number of pregnancies among partners of young male participants. There were significantly fewer pregnancies in young women who received a multifaceted programme

This is real-world data about abstinence education, as opposed to the Silver Ring Thing telling us

God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of sexual sin. Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honour.

What comes next? A council of avowed illiterates to decide how English is taught?

As George Monbiot wrote a few years ago when Silver Ring Thing first came to the UK

The two western countries at the top of the disaster league, the United States and the United Kingdom, are those in which conservative campaigns are among the strongest and sex education and access to contraception are among the weakest.

The United States, the UN Population Fund’s figures show, is the only rich nation stuck in the middle of the Third World block, with 53 births per 1000 teenagers – a worse record than India, the Philippines and Rwanda. The United Kingdom comes next at 20.

The nations the conservatives would place at the top of the list are clumped at the bottom. Germany and Norway produce 11 babies per 1000 teenagers, Finland eight, Sweden and Denmark seven and the Netherlands five.

So that's more than ten times the number of teenage pregnancies in freemarket, abstinence-heavy, anti-abortion USA than in the Netherlands. The Tories think this is something to emulate.

Monbiot concludes

The catastrophe afflicting so many teenagers in Britain and America, in other words, has been caused not by liberal teachers, liberated parents, Marie Stopes International and the Guardian, but by George Bush, Ann Widdecombe and the Daily Mail. They campaign against early sex education, discourage access to contraceptives and agitate against the social inclusion (income equality, the welfare state) which offers young women better prospects than getting knocked up.

Abstinence campaigns like the Silver Ring Thing do delay the onset of sexual activity, but when their victims are sucked into the cesspool (nearly all eventually are), they are around one third less likely to use contraceptives (according to a study by researchers at Columbia University), as they are not “prepared for an experience that they have promised to forgo.”

When Health Secretary Andrew Lansley calls in PepsiCo, McDonald's and Mars to write health policy it is an outrage, but it also makes sense as the government is there to grease the path of corporate power and increase the associated profits. To the Tories the payoff for that - more misery for the population and an expensive increase in demand for health services - pales in comparison.

But with this handing of power to the bigoted sex-hating monotheists, there's no such profit bonanza. This is simply the cruel claws of the Tories tearing into the flesh of the nation on general principle, acting out of opposition to any liberation or pleasure that is not paid for, and out of Francoesque deference to the vicious values of the traditional church.


Derek Wall said...

thanks for posting this, lunancy very depressing what the coalition are up to!

Paul said...

"If you want to wear a ring to say you're not getting any sex, you should get married like the rest of us"

- Marcus Brigstocke.