The Government’s new guidelines on teaching sex education are being criticised by OutRage! as “weak and insufficiently inclusive”.
The guidance to teachers is set out in an amendment to the Learning and Skills Bill. It gives prominence to teaching about “marriage and permanent relationships”.
“The guidelines are not inclusive enough. They do not oblige schools to provide pupils with gay sex education and safer sex advice. To safeguard their well-being, gay students need specific, affirmative information about homosexuality and HIV prevention. The guidelines do not require schools to provide this information. That is a weakness”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
“Instead of the reference to marriage, we would prefer neutral guidance stating that teaching about sex and relationships should emphasize the importance of mutual consent, respect, fulfilment and commitment.
“This formulation would cover everyone — married and unmarried, gay and straight, and those inside and outside traditional family relationships.
“OutRage! supports the principle of legally-binding guidelines to compel schools to provide open, honest, nonjudgemental information about homosexuality and gay safer sex. Without this legal requirement, most schools will continue to evade their responsibility to safeguard the emotional and physical health of lesbian and gay students. Because gay issues are viewed as a political hot potato, teachers will err on the side of caution and neglect the needs of gay pupils.
“Some teachers are themselves homophobic, whilst many others feel uncomfortable or ill-equipped to talk about homosexuality.
“To ensure impartial, effective education on gay issues, teachers need to receive specialist training on how to discuss homosexuality and gay safer sex in the classroom”, said Mr. Tatchell.
Excerpt from the Draft Guidelines
1.30 It is up to schools to make sure that the needs of all pupils are met in their programmes. Young people, whatever their developing sexuality, need to feel that it is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment is clear that teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support. There should be no direct promotion of sexual orientation.
1.31 Sexual orientation and what is taught in schools is an area of concern for some parents. Schools that liaise closely with parents when developing their sex and relationship education policy and programme should be able to reassure parents of the content of the programme and the context in which it will be presented.
1.32 Guidance issued by the Department (Social Inclusion: Pupil Support Circular 10/99) dealt with the unacceptability of and emotional distress and harm caused by bullying in whatever form – be it racial, as a result of a pupil’s appearance, related to sexual orientation or for any other reason.
Alan Milburn (Health Secretary) and Baroness Jay (Minister for Women and a former health minister) have formally complained to Mr. Blunkett about the requirement for teachers to promote marriage in schools; and Chris Smith (Culture Secretary) has also contacted Mr. Blunkett to raise concerns that the Government is replacing Section 28 with a clause putting a legally-binding duty on teachers to promote heterosexuality.
In Scotland Donald Gorrie MSP, Local Government Spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has rejected calls that the Scottish Executive should follow the example of Westminster. — “It is wrong for a few bishops to be involved in drafting the actual wording of a Bill with Ministers. Who have the bishops consulted? … When it comes to Section 28 it is the views of young people that we should be listening to. They are more relevant to the issue than a small group of bishops.”
Gay campaigners protesting against Section 28 interrupted a lecture by Cardinal Winning in Croydon, south London, on the evening of Tuesday, 7th March.
The brief peaceful protest took place in St. Mary’s Catholic Church Hall, where the Cardinal was giving the 12th annual Cobb Memorial Lecture, in honour of the First World War conscientious objector, Charles Cobb.
The Cardinal’s lecture was on the themes of social justice, respect and solidarity.
Twenty minutes into his lecture, when Cardinal Winning was extolling the importance of respecting other people, Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who was sitting in the audience, shouted out: “Why don’t you respect gay people? Why do you oppose gay human rights?”
Ignoring the interjection, the Cardinal continued his lecture.
Six members of the gay rights group OutRage! then walked onto the platform and surrounded Cardinal Winning, holding up placards emblazoned with the words “Stop Crucifying Queers” and “Apologise for Church Homophobia”.
Mr. Tatchell took the microphone and criticised the Cardinal’s support for laws that discriminate against lesbians and gay men. Another OutRage! member, Huw Williams, shouted at Cardinal Winning: “It’s about time you stopped supporting discrimination”.
Church officials ripped down the placards and tried unsucessfully to hustle the protesters off the platform.
The police were called and eventually the protesters left peacefully. One member of OutRage! was arrested but was later released without charge outside the meeting.
“It is hypocritical for Cardinal Winning to talk about justice, respect and solidarity, when he denies these things to lesbians and gay men”, said Peter Tatchell.
“Inviting the Cardinal to give this lecture is an insult to the memory of Charles Cobb. Whereas Cobb took a stand against injustice, Cardinal Winning endorses the injustice of antigay discrimination.
“Cardinal Winning opposes gay equality on Section 28, the age of consent, marriage, employment, military service and the fostering and adoption of children.
“He has condemned love between people of the same sex as a ‘disorder’ and ‘perversion’, and he endorses the Catholic catechism’s denunciation of homosexuality as a ‘grave depravity’”, said Mr. Tatchell.
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Keith Goddard of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) says last October’s OutRage! protest against President Mugabe has had huge positive benefits.
When we first heard about OutRage!’s attempt to arrest President Mugabe of Zimbabwe during his annual shopping expedition to London late last year, none of us realised the massive impact it would have back here in Zimbabwe. Four months later, the incident is still being referred to with amazement and admiration by the media, opposition politicians and, of course, by gays and lesbians.
What is really heartening is the way the OutRage! protest has raised the credibility of GALZ within the general human rights movement in Zimbabwe. Because OutRage! highlighted the torture of Zimbabwean journalists and the genocide in Matabeleland – as well as abuses against the gay community – the media and mainstream human rights groups in this country took the protest very seriously. They began to realise the links between Mugabe’s attacks on gays and his other human rights violations. As a result, GALZ’s voice has been heard loud and clear, and with greater respect than ever before.
Far from damaging the lesbian and gay community or setting back the struggle for gay equality, OutRage!’s attempted citizen’s arrest of President Mugabe has produced many benefits.
It is true that two gay men and one lesbian were assaulted by off-duty policemen who accused them of ordering the attack on Mugabe. OutRage! cannot, however, be blamed for these attacks: the responsibility lies squarely with the perpetrators of this violence and the anti-gay rhetoric of the President, which has had a devastating effect on our community. In 1995, Mugabe referred to lesbians and gays as “worse than dogs and pigs” and undeserving of “any rights at all”. He has called for the arrest of anyone parading publicly as a homosexual.
Far outweighing any negative consequences of OutRage!’s actions, we have witnessed over 300 press articles, news items, letters, radio phone-in programmes and cartoons relating to the OutRage! “arrest” of Mugabe. Many of these have also included mention of gay human rights issues. Most notably, GALZ was, for the first time, invited to appear on national television. Never before has the State allowed GALZ to speak uncensored.
Another breakthrough was a Sunday Mail feature about Herbert Mondhlani, a professional black Zimbabwean gay man. This was the first occasion that the state-controlled newspaper admitted that black lesbian and gay people exist independently of the white gay community.
Although GALZ did not order the OutRage! protest and had no prior knowledge of it, we were deluged with letters of congratulations. Members of the public phoned GALZ to add their voice of approval. Many ordinary Zimbabweans who contacted us –gay and straight– expressed great disappointment that OutRage! did not succeed in getting Mugabe arrested and put on trial.
Comments on the OutRage action by the Zimbabwean public indicate the declining popularity of Mugabe. They see their President and his wife enjoying a rich lifestyle on the backs of impoverished Zimbabweans. Peter Tatchell caught the general mood here perfectly when he said: “It is sickening the way he [Mugabe] comes to London to buy luxuries at Harrods while millions of Zimbabweans are living in poverty”.
Mugabe’s bizarre reaction to the OutRage! protest has only served to further damage his public standing. His claim that the protest was a plot hatched by Tony Blair’s “gay gangster” Government, MI5 and OutRage! has highlighted the deteriorating state of our national leadership. Even hardline supporters of Mugabe have been hard put to swallow such an extraordinary suggestion. Thanks to OutRage!, Mugabe is more discredited than ever and GALZ has won new respect and allies in the human rights movement in Zimbabwe.
Teachers could be jailed for up to five years for consenting relationships with pupils, under the “abuse of trust” clause in the age of consent Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill.
The abuse of trust clause is being condemned as “draconian” by OutRage!, who are urging MPs to register their disapproval of the clause.
“Sex between teachers and pupils is wrong. But it should be punished as a disciplinary offence under the teacher’s professional code of conduct, not by imprisonment”, according to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
“Together with the main teaching unions, we oppose the criminalisation of consensual sex. There is no justification for punishing teachers with up to five years jail for a consenting relationship that may be based on sincere love and commitment.
“Not all such relationships are predatory or exploitative. In the case of a young teacher and an older pupil, there may be only a few years difference in their ages. The relationship could have developed entirely naturally and spontaneously, without any manipulation or abuse.”
GAY CONSENT OFFENDERS WILL REMAIN ON SEX REGISTER
Home Office Minister Charles Clarke MP has said that, even after the equalisation of the age of consent, men convicted of consenting gay sex with 16 and 17 year olds will remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register. His admission comes in a letter to Brian Iddon MP, dated 2nd February 2000.
“Under the Sex Offenders’ Act 1997, a man aged 20 who has a consensual gay relationship with a 17 year old is branded a pædophile and required to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register. No such penalty applies to equivalent heterosexual behaviour. Sex between men and women in the same circumstances is not even an offence.
“The age of consent Bill must be amended to remove from the Sex Offenders’ Register men convicted of consenting homosexual relationships with 16 and 17 year olds.
“Once consent is equalised at 16, the offence for which they were convicted and forced to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register will cease to exist. It is therefore inappropriate for them to remain on the Register”, said Mr. Tatchell.