The Women’s Equality Party and major LGBT+ organisations called together on Thursday to take immediate action for the introduction of compulsory LGBT+-inclusive sex and relationships education (SRE).
The move comes after Conservative MPs voted to block reform on Thursday. The vote took place during the committee stage of the Children and Social Work Bill, and was completely divided on party lines. All 10 Conservative MPs voted to block the SRE amendment, and all five Labour MPs were in favor. No other party was represented on the bill committee.
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said:
“For too long children have been left alone to work out crucial matters like sexual consent, mutual respect and, increasingly, how to navigate online misogyny and sexism,”
She continued: “This is a huge failure – as is the constant stalling of progress towards and understanding of LGBT+ rights. This particular conversation has foundered year after year, parliament after parliament, on the issue of faith schools – to the detriment of all children in all schools. It is our urgent responsibility now to move the conversation on.”
Walker added that she began 2017 by accompanying an organisation called Diversity Role Models to a school in north London.
“I watched them talk to children there about the experiences of people in the LGBT+ community. The session was conducted with openness and good humour and the children engaged with cheerful responsiveness. We need the same good will and trust demonstrated in all our classrooms.”
The Conservative MP for North Dorset, Simon Hoare, claimed that the amendment did not take into consideration faith schools, explaining that there may be concerns about the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality through sex and relationships teaching.
Women’s Equality Party co-founder Sandi Toksvig said: “… I co-founded the Women’s Equality Party to put issues of fundamental equality, including this one, at the top of the political agenda. We cannot further delay inclusive sex and relationships education, and a world in which every young person has the information and support to live happy, healthy lives as themselves.”
Commenting for Stonewall, a spokesperson stated: “We are disappointed with the decision this morning, as it is vital that we see compulsory, age-appropriate SRE that is inclusive of lesbian, gay, bi and trans issues and different families in all schools. Inclusive SRE doesn’t just benefit LGBT young people, but helps all young people to develop an understanding of difference and diversity as they progress into adult life.