Skip to main content
CampaignsEqualityHousingEnvironmentGeneral ElectionSupport Our WorkFixing BritainMigrationEducationRaceCultureWorkGlobal

Restricting sex education helps predators, not children

The government claims it wants to prevent children from safely acquiring knowledge about sex until they are "ready" for it. Abusers will have no such scruples. 

May 17 2024, 13.13pm

The new government guidelines on sex-ed guidelines will see children in primary school blocked from sex education altogether until they are nine years old, while discussion about explicit sexual acts will not take place until children are 13. The ostensible pretext is keeping children safe. The real effect will be to leave children even more exposed to predators. 

In 2022, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found that shame and lack of education was fundamental in making the abuse of children endemic in England and Wales. Though the true number of victims of child sexual abuse is not known, one estimate suggested that at least 15 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys are sexually abused before the age of 16.

In the survivor testimonies included in the report - which make for devastating reading - many, many survivors say they didn’t know that what was being done to them was wrong, that the perpetrator convinced them it was normal, and they didn’t feel able to tell a trusted adult. The report noted that survivors who had been removed from those programmes - for religious and cultural reasons - often did not understand the concept of sexual activity which “in turn, inhibited disclosure”. And many survivors, from bitter experience, also made specific suggestions to strengthen sexual education programs. 

Rishi Sunak’s government is choosing to do the exact opposite, ensuring children are barred from essential knowledge and all but guaranteeing - shockingly - that at least every tenth child will acquire their first knowledge of anything relating to sex from an attacker. The claim is that the guidelines will “ensure children aren’t being taught about sensitive and complex subjects before they are ready to fully understand them”. Abusers will have no such scruples. 

The new policy comes at a time when Rishi Sunak’s future hangs in the balance. The socially conservative right of the party are increasingly vocal about what they deem the creep of “gender ideology”, online harms and sexual expression into schools. This group - though fringe in their views - are influential in the divided party, simply by virtue of being loud and being clear, compared to the panicked muddle of mainstream Conservatives. Playing on the Tories latest bogeyman - Reform UK - this group is pushing the entire party to the right. Sunak, lacking his own electoral mandate or a clear identity, bends to their will. 

But his compliance with these dangerous proposals ignores the damning evidence. With child sex abuse endemic, long-lasting and destructive, robust sexual education is crucial for prevention. By scaling back sex-ed, the government is casting children’s safety aside in favor of self-serving politics.

You might also like...