Major research by the YWCA Scotland uncovers serious failings in school sex education that is putting the wellbeing of young women at risk
Girls and young women in Scotland are not getting education that encourages them to enjoy healthy sex lives, putting their health and wellbeing at risk.
Young women's organisation YWCA Scotland says girls are turning to Youtube to get sexual advice as sex education in schools is failing them.
The charity spoke out after carrying out its annual Status of Young Women in Scotland study on behalf of its Young Women's Movement. The study involved interviews with 115 women aged between 16 and 30 and found many schools do little more than warn against sexually transmitted infections and don't address issues that matter, such as sexual identity, sexual enjoyment, gender equality and pornography.
Social researchers from The Lines Between, uncovered stories of unhelpful experiences of sex education and heard that young women are fed up being ignored, dismissed and even abused because of their gender.
In some schools sex education was simply being shown how to put a condom on a banana and being told to use one to help prevent infections.
The lack of information is so great some young woment told researchers they had turned to YouTube for guidance.
One woman with a learning disability said her school was too scared to talk to her about sex while another woman said her school wasn’t taught about different sexualities and she had no idea what being bisexual was until her friends suggested that she might be bisexual.
It was also suggested boys are often treated differently from girls. Researchers were told that in schools it is generally accepted that boys will have sex and enjoy it and that it is socially acceptable for them to watch porn – however girls were never told that it is okay for them to want and enjoy sex.
Worryingly researchers found evidence of gender based violence and people trying to control young women.
One woman told of how she witnessed her brother assualting his girlfriend and another said a friend had told her that she was being pressured to produce grandchildren for her parents at the age of 16.
Others described being groped at school and and at concerts.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and LGBT campaign group Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) have backed the report.
The charity is calling for its research to be used as a starting point by people looking to implement policies around gender equality and sex education and invited others to add, draw comparisons and raise question about the experiences shared.
Kara Brown, director of The Young Women’s Movement, said too often young women are talked at and talked about more than they are listened to.
“We would like to see the Status of Young Women in Scotland report and young women’s voices used as a tool for change,” she said.
“During the discussions we asked young women for their thoughts about the concept of safe spaces, opportunities for young women to come together to share experiences, learn from one another and discuss issues of inequality or anything else of concern to them.
"Almost every participant said they would find the opportunity valuable."
In a foreword to the report, First minister Nicola Sturgeon, focussed on the need for gender equality and said young women across Scotland needed to be heard.
She said: “I believe that young women in Scotland can and should choose their own futures and pursue their own dreams.
“They shouldn’t be held back by outdated ideas about what women should or shouldn’t do. Gender equality isn’t just good for women, it’s good for all of us.
“Our country will only be the best that it can be when women are empowered to participate fully in all aspects of work, political and public life.”
Jordan Daly, co-founder Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) which is calling for compulsory LGBT+ education in schools, said better sex education in schools would go a long way to improving the situation.
He said many of the key findings were alarming and policy makers have to move beyond the traditional approach to education.
“The views of respondents with regards to sex education in schools is consistent with much of our own research and anecdotal evidence,” he added.
“Currently, the educational approach to sex and sexualities is inconsistent, exclusive of LGBTI identities and lacking any real, honest discussion about the issues facing young people today.”
“We invite you to read, draw comparisons and raise question about the experiences shared.”