Dáil debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Education (Health, Relationships and Sex Education) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]

 

11:02 am

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)

We thought we had more. I thank the Social Democrats for bringing forward this Bill on this incredibly important subject. I also commend the former Deputy, Ruth Coppinger, who brought forward a Bill with similar objectives in 2018, the Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill 2018, which tackled the issue in a slightly different way but had the same objectives.

That Bill was passed by the Dáil and it required changes in the principal Act essentially to remove the right of the ethos that is protected in that Act from extending to anything to do with sexuality and that those things should be completely taught on the basis of evidence-based objective education. This Bill is trying to do exactly the same thing in a slightly different way and is very much to be commended.

It is worth contemplating the fact that this Bill was passed and was then buried with a money message by the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil-Independent minority Government. That Government did not feel that it could oppose it but it buried the Bill with the cynical use of the money message.

It is somewhat appropriate that this debate is happening in the same week that we are also debating the mother and baby homes. There is a direct connection between the religious ethos of the institutions which degraded and abused women, the persistence of gender-based violence, the mistreatment of women today and the mental health of our young people, which is often under a great deal of pressure, to put it mildly.

What did the religious ethos do? It essentially made sins of what are basic human needs. Basic human requirements were deemed to be sinful and wrong and to be a reason for shame. Once basic things, such as just being a woman, having a different sexuality or expressing one’s sexuality in any shape or form are deemed sinful, then those who are women or who express their sexuality or who have different types of sexuality become dehumanised and degraded. It becomes okay then to abuse and treat them in a lesser way. When that is legitimised, then the mental health of young people today is put under intense pressure because they are told that there is something wrong with things that are actually just basic human needs and expressions and so on.

When we are talking about this, itis not some sort of ideological debate but is one about the welfare and well-being of our children. To have anything less than scientific, evidence-based education is obscene and is a danger to our children. It perpetuates some of the worst abuses and continued mistreatment and abuse of women, of people with different sexuality, gender identity, and so on. It has to stop and we should not even be debating this but should be talking about the separation of church and State, full stop. There is certainly no excuse, however, for the Government not to accept this Bill and to pass it into law immediately.

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