User Menu

‘Gatekeeper’ sex education warns girls not to have sex, fails to teach boys about consent

TD introduces Bill for ‘factual, objective’ sex education as Belfast rape case raised

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger, who had earlier raised the high-profile rape case in Belfast: “Consent should be looked for. It should be actively sought and not assumed,” she said. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sex education in many schools involves warning girls not to have sex and failing to teach boys about consent, the Dáil has heard as a new Bill to guarantee “factual and objective” teaching was introduced.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy described this form of sex education as the “gatekeeper model” and said the provision of relationships and sexuality education in schools is inadequate.

“There is insufficient education around issues of consent and respect for others,” he said.

Speaking as protests took place across Ireland against how rape victims are treated in the legal system, Mr Murphy said his Bill was driven by young people themselves who pointed to relationships and sexuality education in Ireland being at odds with where society is now.

“We have an education system that is still stuck in another era while students, parents and teachers have moved on.”

He said that in many schools LGBTQ people were not mentioned. In other schools questions about contraception are not answered.

Sexual activity

“In other schools the so-called gatekeeper’s model is taught where girls are warned about sexual activity and boys get no real education on consent.”

He said they were faced with an education system that “puts the ethos of schools, largely religious based, ahead of the needs of young people”.

The Dublin South West TD introduced the Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill to “guarantee the right of students to receive factual and objective relationships and sexuality education without regard to the characteristic spirit of the school”.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said consent was explicitly covered as part of the school curriculum but acknowledged that more needed to be done. He said the State would put more money into sex education.

Mr Coveney was responding to Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger who had earlier raised the high profile rape case in Belfast.

Ms Coppinger said the case had highlighted that rape is sex without consent. “Consent should be looked for. It should be actively sought and not assumed. Submission is not consent,” she stressed.

Reporting of rape

The Dublin West TD asked: “Is there any other crime where a person is expected to yell, shout or ask for help to prove that he or she did not consent to something?”

Ms Coppinger said the State had to look at sex crimes in the jurisdiction and introduce measures to deal with the low level of reporting of rape, where cases take an average of 33 months to get to court.

The Tánaiste said the Belfast case raised many concerns at all sorts of levels but that it was important to reinforce “the trial was in a different jurisdiction. It would not and could not have developed in this jurisdiction in the way it did.

“Therefore it is important for us all to reassure victims of sexual abuse in Ireland that while we need to focus all the time on improving our legal and judicial systems our approach is very different from that taken by the courts in Belfast in recent weeks.”

He added that “we need to be careful we do not draw parallels between two court systems”.

Is it time to make
your next career move?