Image: Lauren Jack and Ruby Medlicott's petition being delivered to Parliament / Rick Zwaan
Here’s a shocker: young people are having sex, and have been for basically forever. More shocking: some of those young people are having sex with each other. Heavens to Betsy!
It’s nothing to be worried about, Wellington High School student Lauren Jack says. But what she says that’s more worrying: that schools aren’t teaching kids about safe sex, consent and healthy relationships – at least not consistently. “It’s the inconsistencies of what they teach,” she says. “We need to address it by teaching consent.”
A lot has been written about the importance of consent, of course (including by us at Villainesse), and a lot of programmes have been produced (for a great recent example, check out Radio New Zealand’s BANG! series). There’s heaps of facts, too, like that consent actually lowers teen pregnancy rates and rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as opposed to non-consensual sex. But few people or organisations are doing as much to stress the importance of consent as Jack and fellow student Ruby Medlicott, who earlier this month delivered a petition to Parliament calling for making sex education a priority and having consent and healthy relationships with LGBTQ+ inclusion taught in every New Zealand high school.
Jack says the petition, which more than 5,700 people signed and was delivered to MP Grant Robertson, has been tabled for future debate – but that debate won’t happen until after next month’s election. “We have to wait until after the general election, then it’ll probably go to a select committee.”
But regardless of what happens to the petition, Jack says the fact is this: Aotearoa’s sex education system is broken. “What they need to know is the sexual education we have in schools is not good enough,” she says. “The aim is to prevent sexual assault before it happens.”
Hence the importance of healthy relationships as well as well as consent, Jack says. She says healthy relationships are built on trust. “That needs to be taught.”
But will politicians listen? Jack hope so. “Many of us teenagers, still in high school, have experienced sexual harassment, sometimes within school environments. According to the stats, one in three girls experience sexual assault before the age of 16. The same goes for one in seven boys.”
Medlicott agrees. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how it progresses through Parliament and what change is created from it,” she says. “To know that we have cross-party support gives us a lot of hope that this is not only achievable, but also welcomed by parts of the Government.”
But Jack says the whole idea of revamping and updating Aotearoa’s sex education system to emphasise consent and healthy relationships – as, frankly, it should have been a long time ago – boils down to one simple thing. “More work needs to be put into prevention.”
Given that New Zealand has some of the highest rates of sexual violence in the developed world, we couldn’t agree more.Support Villainesse