Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference open thread #4: The sex education motion

Welcome to the final open thread of this year’s Welsh Conference. The motion is printed in full at the end of this article.

Cadan ab Tomos proposes the motion, telling the story of why the 18 references to sex caused the Assembly’s porn filters to have a hissy fit.

He concluded:

Whether it’s someone who can’t get an STI test because their clinic isn’t open outside working hours. Whether it’s a young gay man who thinks he doesn’t need a condom because you can’t get guys pregnant or whether it’s a trans woman afraid to express her true self for the fear of not being accepted by her friends and family.

We must accept that it is the attitude of our schools, our government, our society that is causing them these injustices, this enslavement of the people of Wales.

And it is our duty as Liberal Democrats to see this injustice and to act to eradicate it.

The motion would remove the rights of parents to take their children out of sex education classes.

IR Cymru chair Sara Lloyd Williams proposes an amendment which would make free emergency contraception available. She described how a young person might be charged £20 to access it in a pharmacy, which could put it out of reach of many poorer young people.

Bridgend candidate Jonathan Pratt expressed concern about removing parents’ rights to remove their children from sex education, saying that this would force them to conform to something that may be against their religious beliefs.

Nathan Tarr argued for HPV vaccination to be given to boys as well as girls.

A young debut speaker made a strong case to pass the motion to ensure that young people had the knowledge to deal with the challenges that they faced. He talked of his concerns for a friend who came out at school and was subsequently bullied. His friend was scared to go to the toilets in case he was attacked. Sex education, he says, is as important as English and Maths.

Russell said that he was uncomfortable with the idea that parents should lose their right to withdraw their children from sex education and feels that they should request it and be able to request to withdraw them and for that to be decided on a case by case basis.

Leila talks about the importance of making sure that children understand about gender identity.

Robin Rea talks about the state having a responsibility to protect young people from bigotry and ignorance, which can lead to their ill health or death and urges people to vote for the motion as a whole.

Andrew Lye talks about the 80s and the AIDS campaign “Don’t die of ignorance.” His sex education had been virtually non-existent. He also talks about how poor transport links can make it even more difficult for people to access sexual health services. We need to have more walk-in services.

I am surprised to hear that this is Hywel Davies’ first Conference speech. He talks about how his sex education was basically about avoiding pregnancy, which was irrelevant to him as a young, gay man. He is now part of that 50 million community of people living with HIV.

Michael Wilson, a fab Scottish export to Wales, makes a strong speech in support of giving children the education they need.

Gurleen Kaur made the point that year 10 is way too late to start sex education.

Charlie Kingsbury said that education is key. If you don’t have the knowledge you can’t make autonomous and free choices.

Chloe Hutchinson says that access to emergency contraception is vital and urges Conference to support the motion.

ELuned Parrott, on stage for the third time in two hours, summates. She jokes that she has still to have “the chat” with her parents and it could be a little bit awkward now.

She says that we fail children by not giving them an indication of what a healthy, balanced relationship looks like and they may not see for themselves what that is at home.

She adds that it’s so important to teach about consent early. It’s fine to say no in a healthy relationship. The problems only occur in a manipulative relationships and they need to recognise when they may be manipulated or abused. That’s why they need to be taught about these issues before 15 years old.

And, so, with another display of how marvellous the young people in this party are, Conference comes to a close. I’m off to enjoy a few hours exploring this beautiful city before heading home.

Conference notes that:
1. Basicsexeducationiscurrentlyofferedfromage11inWelshschools,andparentsorlegal guardians can exclude their children from any part of it.
2. AccesstosexualhealthclinicsinWalesispoor,particularlyinruralareas,duetolocation, restricted opening hours or a lack of capacity.
3. SomesexualhealthclinicsinEnglandoffersame-daytesting/resultsservices,whileno similar provision exists in Wales.
4. Therearestrictconfidentialitypracticessurroundingsexualhealthclinics,andthesharing of patient records with GPs and other health professionals.
5. ResearchbytheRoyalCollegeofPaediatricsandChildHealthfoundacorrelation between teenage pregnancy rates and increased deprivation in Wales.
6. FreeHIVhometestingkits,providedbytheTerrenceHigginsTrustandfundedbythe NHS, are available in England; while no similar provision exists in Wales.
7. StigmaandmisinformationsurroundingthetruenatureofHIVanditseffectsisstill widespread.
8. ClinicaltrialsofPre-ExposureProphylaxis(PrEP)medicationhaveshownsignificant success in preventing the transmission and contraction of HIV.
9. TheWelshGovernmentrecentlydecidedtoextendhumanpapillomavirus(HPV) vaccination to men who have sex with men (MSM) through sexual health clinics.
Conference believes that:
1. EverychildinWalesshouldreceivegoodqualitysexandrelationshipseducation(SRE), which is vital in improving sexual health, eradicating stigma and ending sexual violence.
2. Theissuesofconsent,sexualityandgenderidentityarenotdealtwithbythecurrentSRE curriculum in enough depth, nor early enough in a child’s education.
3. EverypersoninWalesshouldhaveeasyaccesstotimely,non-judgementalsexualhealth and family planning services, regardless of personal characteristics or circumstances.
4. Thesevererestrictionsplacedonsharingpatientrecordsbetweensexualhealthclinics and other parts of the NHS can be problematic, and in some cases can harm patient care.
5. Aproactive,ratherthanreactive,approachtosexualhealthismorelikelytodecreaserates of STIs.
6. PersistentlyhigherHIVdiagnosisratesamongMSMandthecontinuedstigmatisationof people who are HIV-positive mark a failure of public health policy, and that the mistakes made in dealing with HIV must be learned from.
7. InordertofullyprotectMSMfromHPVanditsassociatedcancers,boysshouldbe vaccinated against it on the same basis as their female peers.
Conference calls for:
1. ThecreationofastrongerandmoreinclusiveSREcurriculuminWaleswhichproperly deals with issues of gender identity, sexuality, consent and healthy relationships at the earliest appropriate age.
2. Theremovalofaparent’sorlegalguardian’srighttoexcludetheirchildfromanypartof SRE in any school in Wales.
Spring Conference 2016
Cardiff 21
3. Localauthoritiestosetasidespecificfundsallowingschoolstoinviteexpertspeakersfrom specialist third sector bodies, ensuring that no school is hampered by a lack of knowledge of SRE issues among its teaching staff.
4. Wales’HPVvaccinationprogrammetobeextendedtocoveralladolescentboysonthe same basis as their female peers.
5. ApilotprogrammeofferingSTItestingatthesametimeasotherregularhealthchecks, upon admittance to hospital, in pharmacies, GPs’ surgeries and other community locations across Wales.
6. Anincreaseintheavailabilityandefficiencyofsexualhealthandfamilyplanningservices, particularly in deprived and rural areas, by:
a. extendingopeninghoursofexistingclinics;
b. establishingnewclinicswheredemandexists;and c. offeringsame-dayresultsserviceswherepossible.
7. BusinessestoofferSTItestingaspartofoccupationalhealthevents.
8. AreviewintotheconfidentialityofpatientrecordsinWelshsexualhealthclinicstoensure that health professionals who need patient records are able to access them, while maintaining a patient’s right to opt out of such sharing.
9. NHSWalestofundHIVhome-testingkitssimilartoexistingprovisioninEngland.
10.A public health information campaign explaining the true nature of HIV and its transmission, diagnosis and treatment, in order to reduce the stigma attached to the virus and reduce transmission rates.
11.PrEP to be made available by the AWMSG to those at high risk of contracting HIV.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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