Teaching shouldn’t stop at the physical – students

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CHANGE NEEDED: Rebekah Lowe and Julia Wilson-Orr, both 17, have launched a campaign for sexual education for teenagers to go beyond the physical aspects of sex.

A Palmerston North teenager is calling for more talk on taboo topics to help school students’ sexual education.

The sooner adolescents can openly talk about the challenges of intimate relationships, the better, says 17-year-old Julia Wilson-Orr.

The Girls’ High School year 13 student has spent the year advocating for sexual health and abuse awareness education to be made mandatory throughout secondary schools.

Wilson-Orr, alongside her classmates Rebekah Lowe, Grace Adeyinka and Aradhna Mandri, launched a campaign calling for the subject to go beyond just learning about the body’s biological development and the physical aspects of sex.

They said classes should explore what was a healthy compared with a violent relationship, sexual abuse awareness, emotional challenges and consent.

“Sexuality education” is compulsory in New Zealand schools until the end of year 10, but the Girls’ High group want it to be mandatory through to year 13. Wilson-Orr believed age-appropriate lessons linked to the topic could start as young as year 4.

She welcomed moves by the Ministry of Education to update its sexual education guidelines, saying the number of high profile teenage cases involving sexual abuse, consent issues and rape – such as the group of youths who called themselves Roast Busters who boasted about getting girls drunk and having sex with them – proved more needed to be done to inform adolescents about what’s right and what’s wrong.

Suggestions that the issue of sexual consent could be introduced to the classroom in a more formal capacity was a promising sign that something more serious could be considered to educate youngsters, Wilson-Orr said.

“People are stepping up now and realising it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with for our young people.”

It was a “generation-changing” challenge to break barriers and social stigmas, but the more people openly talked about an all-encompassing sexual education, the better it would be, Wilson-Orr said.

“Change needs to happen and sooner rather than later.”


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