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Sexual education must be embedded in our school system

12th March 2021 - Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, TD

A new comprehensive programme of relationship and sexual education must be embedded in our school system for children from early age if we are to break the endemic of sexual and gender-based violence in Ireland, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dún Laoghaire Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill was speaking as the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality is meeting tomorrow (Saturday) to discuss the issue of gender based violence and will work to agree to a ballot paper on care.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill has said, “In recent days, there has been a renewed discussion about gender based violence following the tragic suspected murder of Sarah Everard, who disappeared last week as she walked home from a friend’s house in London.

“Many women have recounted their own experiences online of feeling intimated as they walked alone or have encountered violence or abuse because of their sex.

“Women have told how they instinctively check in with a female friend or relative to make sure they are home safe. Why should one gender live in fear of another? The answer is it is not acceptable, and the answer lies in a new approach to relationship and sexual education that educates out children.

“The convening of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender violence today is timely given the current public discussion, nevertheless this issue has proved absolutely timeless as generation after generation of women suffer the same fear and same attacks over and over again. Unless we take radically different steps to educate our children today about respect and boundaries and personhood, we have no hope of preventing this cycle happening again for our children today.

“Sexual violence, gender violence and domestic abuse are the exertion of one person on another. I have said before that the only way to break that exertion is with a comprehensive and very new and very different approach to relationship and sexual education.

“So that when I or anyone else drops their child to school, that we can look around at the children and hope that the challenges that faced us and face us still, have some chance of being interrupted, of being broken. Of being different for them.

“1 in 3 to one in 4 women are directly victimised by sexual violence and/ or domestic violence in Europe and the figure mirrors the prevalence in Ireland.

“We need to help ensure that victims know that they will be protected and supported every step of the way in reporting these crimes and that their perpetrators will be held accountable and brought to justice.

“The response we need to end this endemic of sexual and gender violence is the education of our five years olds and beyond. Now. All of the other measures can only be sticking plasters, they will never fix the injury,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.

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