Young people want sex education and religion shouldn’t get in the way. That’s the message from one expert as the topic continues to be a source of anxiety for parents.
Gary D Bouma, emeritus professor of sociology at Monash University, said that while many parents want to ensure the curriculum doesn’t undermine their moral and religious views, it doesn’t mean that it should conflict with students’ right to sex education.
Young people want information
Professor Bouma said that young people, when asked in Monash University’s recent nationally representative survey, want information about sex, sexuality and gender diversity.
“They are familiar and comfortable with these matters,” Professor Bouma wrote.
“A small percentage of students [about 10%] are not comfortable with these topics. These survey findings were corroborated in nationwide focus group discussions and follow-up interviews.”
Additionally, a recent survey of 2,000 students from Australia found young people want more information about gender diversity, violence in relationships, sexual pleasure, intimacy and love.
Balancing quality sex-ed with religious freedom
The basic question, says Professor Bouma, is how to recognise and permit minority religious expressions, while also respecting the dignity and rights of all Australians.
Professor Bouma said that while parents have the right to select schools whose ideology fits their own, real diversities need to be respected on a national level so that inclusive approaches to sex education are provided “for the sake of public health”.
“This is needed to accommodate minority religious views, but it’s important to make sure those views doesn’t unduly curtail the sex and sexuality education offered to everyone,” he wrote.