* To bring about the development of a national sex education curriculum providing comprehensive, accurate, developmentally appropriate information from kindergarten to final school year
* To include information for people of all sexual orientations on issues such as sexual decision-making, emotional aspects of sex, consent, sex and gender diversity, homophobia, assertiveness, respect and peer pressure
* To remove taboos, shame, isolation about sexuality and gender identity, and help young people make safe, proud, respectful and informed choices
* To employ a holistic approach towards eliminating gender based harm and sexual violence and reducing vulnerability to abuse
* To cater to different learning abilities and methods among students
The Australian Sex Party advocates the implementation of a national sex education curriculum that provides comprehensive and street-wise information to children and young people from Kindergarten to their final year of high school.
The Sex Party recognises that children and young people are currently bombarded with information of a sexual nature and yet sex education in Australia remains significantly ad hoc and incomplete. Australian youth website Act Now says, ‘Worried parents complain that sex is everywhere, from music videos to car commercials. But there may be one place where there isn’t enough sex – Australia’s classrooms.’(1) There is currently no comprehensive sex education syllabus in Australia, nor any standard age that sex education is required to begin. While broad policy statements set curriculum standards, individual schools have wide scope to determine which materials they elect to teach or ignore.(2) In a technological age of information sharing, it is crucial for us to be educating our children in ways that promote protection and freedom through information and awareness.
Not-for-profit sexual and reproductive healthcare provider Marie Stopes International notes that in Australia a third of school children have had their first sexual experience at age 14 years or younger, yet almost one in ten say they have not been taught sex education at school.(3) Their report reveals that although 61% of teens rate their knowledge of sexual health issues as good/excellent, nearly half (45%) are not aware that they could be infected with Chlamydia but have no symptoms, 3 in 10 (30%) of teens are unaware whether they could contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from oral sex, and over half (52%) think that by using a condom, they won’t contract herpes. While just over half of teens who have received sex education at school claim to have been taught topics such as sexual decision making (51%), less than half have received information on the emotional aspects of sex (39%) and non-consensual sex (43%).
There is substantial evidence on the effectiveness of comprehensive sex education and it has prominent community support and encouragement. Marie Stopes International studies show that many parents (56%) and teens (69%) feel that sex education at the teen’s school is of average or lower quality, and 75% of parents and 66% of teens support mandatory sex education in schools.(4) Significantly, studies show that sex education does not necessarily encourage sexual activity among children and teenagers. In 2006, Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia released a position statement noting that sex education does not promote earlier or increased sexual activity and in fact can delay the onset of sexual activity, and reduce the number of sexual partners.(5) By way of comparison, a recently released report from the Guttmacher Institute in the United States shows a 3% rise in teen pregnancy, with research papers pointing to ‘the growth of abstinence-only sex education at the expense of comprehensive programs’ as a contributing factor,(6) with the focus on abstinence and the shifts in pregnancy occurring around the same time.(7)
The Sex Party advocates age appropriate, developmentally appropriate, medically accurate information about relationships, decision-making, assertiveness, respect, skill building, peer pressure, STIs and HIV to be available to all young people consistently throughout their school years. We promote an education curriculum that does not censor information but which includes information for people of all sexual orientations on safer sex practices for manual, oral and anal sex, legal issues about consent and abuse, menstruation, masturbation, ejaculation, orgasm, emergency contraception, abortion, anatomy, reproduction, intercourse, sexual health, emotional relations, rights and responsibilities, family planning, cross cultural conceptions of gender, sexual variance, gender identity, diversity, homophobia, and gender based harm. Our approach aims to help young people protect their health and happiness, make proud and safer choices, have safe spaces to explore their sexuality, recognise abusive patterns, and be among positive images about sexuality to prevent stigma, isolation and taboos that surround sexual issues.
Providing comprehensive sex education is consistent with a larger holistic approach by the Australian Sex Party to achieve gender equality and combat gender based harm. We believe that we would see less sexual violence, abuse and intolerance if children received a comprehensive life education that taught them to identify and recognise harmful practices, speak out to stop them, and understand issues of consent, sex and gender diversity, and respect. Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia note that comprehensive sex education not only increases knowledge of STIs and the use of safe sex practices and contraception, but also reduces vulnerability to abuse.(8) We support organisations such as Like It Is who provide sexual health information to young people (9) and the White Ribbon Foundation who speak about gender based harm from men to men and provide responsible role models for young boys.(10)
Our policy of more comprehensive sex education recognises that a number of issues are currently 'left out' of ad-hoc state education curriculums, and is consistent with the adoption of more inclusive education programs that educate children throughout the entirety of their school years about human rights and social justice issues. We recognise that students are diverse and learn differently, and support methods that cater to all students, particularly students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, English language barriers, emotional or behavioural problems, lack of interest or engagement, and sensory and physical disabilities.
1. Act Now, Sex Education in Australia, 10 November 2008, http://www.actnow.com.au/Issues/Sex_education_in_Australia.aspx
2. Act Now, Sex Education in Australia, as above n1
3. Marie Stopes International, Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare: New Research Shows Sex Education and Knowledge Levels Lacking for Teens, 27 October 2009, http://www.mariestopes.com.au/news/136
4. Marie Stopes International, as above n3
5. Sexual Health and Planning Australia, Position Statement, Sexuality Education, April 2006, http://www.fpv.org.au/pdfs/SHFPA%20Position%20Statement%20Sexuality%20Education%202006-04.pdf
6. Guttmacher Institute, US Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity, January 2010 http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf?source=cmailer
7. Sharon Jayson, Teen Pregnancy, Abortion Rates Rise, USA Today, 26 January 2010 http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-01-26-1Ateenpregnancy26_ST_N.htm?source=cmailer
8. Sexual Health and Planning Australia, above n5
9. Like It Is, http://www.likeitis.org.au/
10. White Ribbon Day http://www.whiteribbonday.org.au/