SDLP East Derry MLA Cara Hunter has called for consent to be included in the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) taught in schools in the North.
Ms Hunter was speaking after challenging DUP Education Minister Michelle McIlveen on the issue in the Assembly on Tuesday.
Minister McIlveen said consent was included in the Education (Curriculum Minimum Content) Order (Northern Ireland) 2007, but the order does not explicitly mention consent.
East Derry MLA Ms Hunter said:
“I have been raising issues around the totally unfit RSE in our schools for some time and I was extremely disappointed by DUP Minister McIlveen’s dismissive response when I challenged her on the lack of provision for educating our young people about consent in schools. Despite the Minister’s claim that consent was covered in the 2007 order it is not mentioned even once.
“The fact that this order is from 2007 says it all – it is entirely unfit for purpose and badly outdated in 2022. We need RSE that reflects the society we live in today and I think everyone would admit the way we view relationships has changed considerably since this order was published.
“If we are ever going to properly tackle the issues around men’s attitudes to women and girls then we need to begin by educating them about these issues as young as possible. We cannot expect outside groups to carry the can on this, the Department of Education needs to take responsibility and ensure that our young people are educated about these issues while at school.
“We have heard much discussion recently about how we can change the misogynistic attitudes that are sadly still so prevalent in our society. By teaching young people about consent and healthy relationships we will equip them with the tools to build positive relationships with the women in their lives. The more young people we get this message to the more likely men and boys will be to think before engaging in harmful behaviours and to challenge their peers when they are in the wrong.”