GEM warmly welcomes the report released today by the Women and Equalities Select Committee Inquiry into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools. In particular, we are delighted to see recognition of the extensive evidence of pornography’s negative impact on children and young people, and a specific recommendation to urgently revise government guidance on sex and relationships education, to include lessons on pornography.
Oral evidence given by co-founder Dr. Fiona Vera-Gray, is cited in the report, as well as our written evidence which is available to read in full here. We drew across research and practice-based evidence to emphasise how media sexism and online misogyny, including pornography, are implicated in the sexual harassment of girls in schools.
Dr. Vera-Gray says
Pornography is a moving target, and for too long government has been letting the pornography industry lead the way. It is quite simply unacceptable that the current Government guidance on teaching Sex and Relationships Education has no reference to pornography, given its ubiquity in the today’s world.
The price of previous inaction is evident throughout this report, from young people confused about consent, to racist sexual stereotyping. Schools play a vital role in providing an age-appropriate space to raise these issues.
GEM also welcome the recommendation for a new duty on all schools to take appropriate action to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence, including Independent schools. This requires a whole-school approach to ending violence against women and girls.
Dr. Vera-Gray continues
We urgently need a coherent approach across policy to stem the tide of media sexism and address all forms of online misogyny, including pornography. This report rightly recommends that any work in schools to challenge sexual harassment, needs to be located within a whole-school approach to violence against women and needs to be supported by broader action, such as the new legal obligation on schools, or the proposals in the Digital and Economy bill to be debated today about improving restrictions on access to pornography.
We need to use all the tools we have to take back control of our future. To be able to say this is not how we want our society to see women; this is not how we expect our men and boys to behave; these are not the representations of race that we support as a society.
The final report from the Women and Equalities Select Committee Inquiry into Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence in Schools is available to read here.