This year, on September 23, New Zealand will vote on who gets to lead the country for the next three years. Over the past few months, Villainesse has reached out to a number of politicians, asking them why they think they deserve the vote of young women. In our 2017 election series, 'The Pitch', we asked politicians to make their case to you so that when you go to the ballot box you'll know exactly where they stand.
We reached out to every party currently in Parliament, and received answers from National, Labour, The Green Party, Act and United Future. Although we reached out to a number of National MPs, including the Prime Minister, only Paula Bennett agreed to take part. New Zealand First did not answer our questions, so its MPs are not represented.
Between now and the election, we’ll be providing you with a snapshot of where the politicians we interviewed stand on important issues, so that you can compare and contrast. Next up is sexuality education.
We asked each politician, “Do you think that New Zealand’s sexuality education system is working? If not, what would you do to change it?”
Here’s what they had to say.
Paula Bennett, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women: In 2015, Schools asked the Ministry of Health for clearer guidance on how to teach sexuality education and that was provided. Schools must cover relationships between people, and our guidance to schools clearly says this should cover consent.
I believe it’s important that parents the community are involved in what should be taught. Schools must consult with their parent communities about how they will deliver sexuality education, as it will only be effective when it has the support of parents.
All of us, including parents, have to take responsibility for ensuring that every young person understands their responsibilities and obligations to respect others and to look after themselves.
Earlier this year a group of young men and women marched to parliament to raise awareness around consent. I was so proud of them for speaking up and drawing attention to the issue.
Jacinda Ardern, Labour Party leader: We could be doing a lot better. We’ll support schools to develop comprehensive policies and actions to deal with bullying on the grounds of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and intersex status, implement the Ministry of Education’s Sexuality Education Guidelines and ensure intensive intervention and adequate levels of support for Rainbow youth in the compulsory education system.
Andrew Little: Some schools are doing a good job, but there is room for improvement. I firmly believe we’ve got to do better when it comes to sex education.
As I said earlier this year, I believe sexual consent should be a compulsory part of a school’s curriculum. School is where young people are doing a lot of their growing up, it’s when they’re being confronted with big choices and changes, and school is the best place for education about consent and healthy relationships to happen.
Our policy to make comprehensive school-based health teams available in every state secondary school, from decile 1 to decile 10, would provide any extra support needed.
Carmel Sepuloni: I was really concerned to see the state of some of the resources in schools on this issue when I was on one of my local secondary school Board of Trustees. We’ve got to look at the resources we are providing to schools to ensure they are up to date and support them in effectively rolling out our health curriculum. There is no doubt that we need to improve education around consent.
We’ve also got to look at what support and services are provided to schools around consent to help get the message across. We need to support schools to develop comprehensive policies and actions to deal with bullying on the grounds of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and intersex status, implement the Ministry of Education’s Sexuality Education Guidelines and ensure intensive intervention and adequate levels of support for Rainbow youth in the compulsory education system.
Kiri Allan: The things people speak to me about are: (a) ensuring that queer sexual education is open and freely available to all kids; and (b) ensuring that sexual consent is taught at schools. In my day, they taught all the Māori kids how to put condoms on a wooden thing a year earlier than all the other kids “because we were far more likely than the rest of them to get pregnant”. I hope a lot of the stigma for today’s kids has gone – I tell ya, it wasn’t really cool being separated when we were 13 or 14 and told we were probably going to have kids while we were at high school!
Louisa Wall: The current curriculum guidelines for sexuality education are wide and every school can determine what they will teach, or what they deem appropriate to teach.
This means that schools may choose to leave out some of the more critical themes of sexuality education, such as gender identity and sexual orientation, sexually transmitted diseases and how they are transmitted and the impacts of pornography and sexual abuse, because the schools and their communities don’t think they are appropriate to discuss with certain age groups.
Curriculum guidelines for sexuality education should be prescriptive and defined so that these important aspects are covered.
THE GREEN PARTY
James Shaw, Green Party leader: It obviously isn’t! I think we should be listening to the amazing young people across New Zealand who have been protesting and petitioning the Government to properly fund consent-based sexuality in all schools. It’s the 21st century, let’s teach young people to respect themselves and each other in intimate relationships.
Gareth Hughes: If you look at the evidence and real sexual harm too many Kiwis face it’s clear it isn’t working. The Greens would encourage better sex education and in particular on consent.
Chlöe Swarbrick: I’m about six years out of high school. My memory of sex ed is a full-frontal video of a woman giving birth, and putting condoms on bananas. If [it] remains anything like that nowadays, it’s woefully inadequate.
When we don’t talk about sex, consent, intimacy, or relationships, nor acknowledge that porn is a thing, we have a problem. The problem is a whole lot of young people getting their sex education by way of what’s accessible to them – namely, porn. Porn doesn’t teach consent, intimacy or relationships. It teaches a myopic view of sex. I’m inspired by the young women of Wellington Girls College who protested for consent education, who recognised the pervasive nature of rape culture, and stood up for tolerance and openness and respect. Human beings can figure out the technical bits of sex. Education is supposed to fill in the blanks, which is where consent, intimacy and relationships should be highlighted. Also, it could be less heteronormative (condoms on bananas? Seriously?).
Golriz Ghahraman: As a starting point, sex and sexuality education must be included in our standard curriculum, which currently doesn’t exist, instead sex ed is provided by private groups selected ad hoc by boards of trustees. Much of this is abstinence based and contributes to spread of misinformation. We need standardised and reliable sex education programme provided to every school by the state. More than that, sex education should be holistic and focus on sex, sexuality, and address issues around forming positive intimate relationships.
THE MĀORI PARTY
[Note: The Māori Party’s co-leaders Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell gave the exact same response to this question]
Marama Fox, co-leader of the Māori Party: The Māori Party does not have an official policy on sexuality education in schools but we believe it should be the right of whānau to decide whether their child/children should participate in such classes and to what extent.
Te Ururoa Flavell, co-leader of the Māori Party: The Māori Party does not have an official policy on sexuality education in schools but we believe it should be the right of whānau to decide whether their child/children should participate in such classes and to what extent.
David Seymour, ACT Party leader: There are clearly issues with the delivery of sex ed in New Zealand. At its core, our sex ed programme in schools should focus on the principles of respect for bodily autonomy and the importance of consent, as well as understanding that there are a range of identities, sexualities, and beliefs about sexuality that are all entitled to respect. At a practical level we also need to make sure that students from a young age know how to access (and use) contraception and sexual health services – ensuring we get the basics right.Support Villainesse