The Senedd should reject this bodged RSE proposal

This morning Merched Cymru sent an email to all Senedd Members in response to Welsh Government’s publication yesterday evening of a new document, ‘Curriculum for Wales: draft RSE statutory guidance and code’.
MSs will be required to vote on both the Code today after a 30 minute debate which will take place less than 24 hours after the publication of a key document. This is insufficient time for our representatives to reach an informed opinion about the adequacy of the RSE Code.

While some of the content is useful, it appears to be very much a draft (the automatic header says Numeracy Employer Engagement Grant) and has also confirmed our fears about the most problematic elements of the draft RSE Code that went out to public consultation now being located in the Guidance which until now was not available to MSs.
Our criticism of the Code itself therefore still stands.

In addition, we would make the following points:

  • The aversion to using the words for the two sexes continues and the detrimental impacts of pornography are ignored.
  • Mentioning legislation is not the same as ensuring that the RSE Code and Guidance equips schools and teachers to address an issue. The legislation section of the document is comprehensive. A key issue is that the implications of that legislation are ignored in other sections of the guidance and code. In fact, in relation to the Equality Act 2010 the document does not reflect its provisions well.
  • Although the problematic Glossary in the consultation draft has been edited somewhat now that it has been moved to the Guidance, it is still inadequate and ideologically loaded. Several of the most controversial definitions have been removed. Welsh Government’s use of the word ‘gender’ (frequently repeating the phrase ‘sex, gender and sexuality’) is confused. Sometimes it is used as a euphemism for sex, sometimes as a shorthand for performative stereotypes and often as a description of a social identity. The definition in the Glossary leaves no room for teachers or learners to explore the detrimental impacts of gender stereotyping.
  • For example, to describe FGM as ‘gender-based violence’ is inaccurate and betrays a lack of understanding of the cultural and structural issues surrounding violence against women and girls. Children do not undergo FGM because they are feminine, or dress like a girl, or feel like a girl, or wish they were a girl. They only experience it if they are a female child. It is as consequence of their sex.
  • Welsh Government’s definition of ‘gender-based violence’ also includes a misleading reference to sexual orientation, despite not having any definitions of sexual orientiation, lesbian, gay, homosexual or bisexual in the glossary.
  • The definition of Violence Against Women isn’t a definition, it’s a description of how RSE may help avoid unhealthy relationships.
  • The definition of ‘sexuality’ is based on the use of the term in a small section of academia.
  • The definition of consent is circular.
  • The ‘catch-all’ acronym LGBTQ+ is defined in a way that is troubling and seems inappropriately focused on labelling and division. This should not be used in government policy and legislation. It’s use should be discontinued.

There are many other issues with the newly-published combined document but our overriding concern is that the RSE Curriculum is built on a very weak ideological foundation. It may be a fashionable one, but unless Welsh Government is able to cast aside political mantras and put accuracy, fairness and science at the heart of this curriculum the Code and Guidance will continue to be a tangled, confused mess.

We would like to stress that Merched Cymru supports universal access to high quality, safe, age appropriate, fully inclusive, scientifically accurate relationship and sex education for all children and young people to enable them to fulfil their potential – and live and love safely and healthily whatever their background or protected characteristics.

Welsh Government has much more work to do before they can claim to be anywhere near to delivering that.