Parliament has had quite a busy week.
But the day before vote after vote (after vote after vote…) failed to find a way past the stubborn Brexit impasse, another motion saw a landslide majority — but barely made the news.
British MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of LGBTQ+ inclusive sex and relationships education by an immense margin of 538 to 21.
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It means that from September 2020 all secondary schools must teach students about sexual orientation, harmful stereotypes, and gender identity — and all primary schools will give lessons on family structures that include LGBTQ+ relationships.
According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, a sexual health charity, 97% of young people support the idea.
On February 25, the Department of Education also announced that female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, menstrual health, and “honour-based abuse” would join the curriculum.
Together with LGBTQ+ inclusion, it will be the first change to sex and relationship education in nearly 20 years.
It's got lost in all the chaos, but MPs have voted to make LGBT inclusive sex and relationship education the law - by a huge margin of 538 to 21. After weeks of harmful, difficult debate about the rights of LGBT people, this is such a great step forward.https://t.co/xzHLk1pChb— Benjamin Butterworth (@benjaminbutter) March 27, 2019
Education Secretary Damian Hinds brought the motion to the House of Commons on Wednesday — and activists have reacted to the outcome with joy.
“Currently, two in five LGBT pupils are taught nothing about LGBT issues in school,” Mo Wiltshire, Stonewall UK’s director of education and youth, told Global Citizen. “While progress has been made, nearly half of LGBT pupils are still bullied for being themselves.”
“These new subjects have the potential to deliver real change in how LGBT families, people, and relationships are taught about,” he added. “This will help foster greater inclusion, acceptance, and understanding in our classrooms, playgrounds, and school corridors”
Wiltshire urged the government to invest in the necessary training to ensure the teaching is delivered in the right way — but praised the ruling, pending approval by the House of Lords.
“All students, whether they are LGBT or not, should have the time and space to learn about the diversity that exists and makes our world beautiful,” Wiltshire said.
I can still remember how scared I was at school of anyone knowing I was gay. It was crippling and made me very isolated and disruptive. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so terrified if LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education was in my school. If I were made to feel “normal” https://t.co/nosgVcUTAg— Gok Wan (@therealgokwan) March 29, 2019
The vote came amid controversy as parents in Birmingham have been protesting against same-sex education classes at Parkfield Community School since January. Hundreds of children were withdrawn from lessons for the day; teaches went on sick leave; and eventually the programme was suspended.
According to the BBC, people who are LGBTQ+ in the UK’s second-biggest city have now “never felt more vulnerable.”
The debate even extended to BBC Question Time on Thursday, when the television panel show closed with the question: “Is it morally right for 5-year-old children to learn about LGBT issues in school.”
It was roundly condemned for poor framing, with many Twitter users accusing the show of refusing to acknowledge the existence of people who are LGBTQ+.
LGBT ‘issues’? Like what? That we exist? One of them, RIGHT HERE, is on your TV every morning. I held back on this, hoping it was clumsy writing, done in haste. But it’s still online. Would you ask if it’s ‘morally right’ to learn about gender/race/religion/disability ‘issues’? https://t.co/V24tHo39w1— Ben Thompson (@BBCBenThompson) March 29, 2019