SEXUAL HEALTH: Sex education for under-16s could invite private prosecution

By Hugh Perry

| 26 February 2003

Youth workers who give sex education or contraception to under-16s could face private prosecution.

The warning comes from the Children's Rights Alliance for England as the sexual offences bill progresses through the House of Lords.

Terri Dowty, acting joint national co-ordinator for the alliance, which comprises 180 organisations, said: "We are concerned that the bill fails to distinguish between aberrant behaviour in adults and behaviour between adolescents that is part of growth."

Clause 15 in the bill creates the offence of "arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence".

Dowty said: "As it stands, this appears to make the provision of contraceptive and sexual advice to young people aged under 16 unlawful."

She added that the UK's teenage pregnancy rates were "unacceptably high" and that education was needed to reduce the spread of disease.

"Any measures that could deter young people from seeking help, or responsible adults from providing it, are irresponsible and regrettable," she said.

The alliance is calling for those aged under 18 to be dealt with separately by the bill.

Separately, a Government-backed scheme for more than 100,0000 schoolchildren under 16 is courting controversy by encouraging them to experiment with oral sex as part of a drive to cut teenage pregnancy rates.

Called A Pause, it has been pioneered by Exeter University. It trains teachers to discuss pre-sex "stopping points" with under-16s. It has support from the departments of health and education, although the sexual offences bill could end it.

www.crights.org.uk

www.ex.ac.uk/sshs/apause.

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