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Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Yes to sex and relationships education, No to Nadine Dorries’ sexist proposals on abstinence education

In QUAC, Tories, Uncategorized on 24/01/2012 at 11:29 am

Friday January 20 saw a noisy but thoughtful demonstration outside the House of Parliament when the second reading of Nadine Dorries’ Bill, which would have forced schools to offer girls aged between 13-16 extra sex education lessons which would have included advice on “the benefits of abstinence. The loudest cheer went up when the picket was informed that the sexist Bill had been withdrawn.

The protest, called by a number of organisations including Queers Against the Cuts, the British Humanist Association (BHA), Abortion Rights, Liberal Conspiracy, Education for Choice, the National Secular Society, Parents and Carers for Sex and Relationships Education (P4SRE), the Socialist Party, Youth Fight for Jobs, Feminist Fightback,  Slut Means Speak Up, Bristol Feminist Network and Left Front Art heard a series of speakers who argued cogently that everyone is entitled to sex and relationships education and that the teaching of abstinence does not reduce the amount of sex young people have.

Indeed if young women and men don’t have access to proper sex education the number of unwanted teenage pregnancies are likely to increase. Other contributions pointed out that women’s ability to say no to unwanted sexual contact is undermined by the lack of  positive sex education – a point underlined by Education for Choice who had all of us acting out two sketches which they use in schools. Queers against the Cuts had been invited to send a speaker but because I was not sure I was going to be able to be present until the last minute I hadn’t agreed. I was a bit disappointed to see there was not more visible LGBT prescence – we need to step this up for future actions on this question

While it is extremely positive that the Bill has been withdrawn the whole issue of Sex Education is something that we need to keep on a socialist and feminist and queer agenda given the increasing growth of faith schools and academies some of which are funded by deeply reactionary foundations. From this point of view it was disappointing not to see any presence from the NUT or other teaching unions on the protest. While it was great to see so many young women and a number of young men there it essential that the trade union movement as a whole and in particular those in education take up the issue.

This is particularly important because it seems at time of writing that Dorries is now threatening to retable her bill or add it to another one

Terry Conway 24/1/2012

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Queers Join Pension Rally

In Pensions, QUAC on 23/01/2012 at 5:57 pm

On November 30th, the day of the largest national strike in a generation, Queers Against the Cuts took our place in the demonstration in London.  Many of us arrived early at Lincolns Inn Fields and distributed placards for the Coalition of Resistance, to which we are affiliated. The famous ‘lollipop’ placards have become synonymous with the anti-cuts demonstrations of the last year. Turnout was huge and it was soon obvious that this was going to be no ordinary demonstration but a mass rally not just against the attempts of the ConDem government to cut the pensions of public service workers but also against the cuts in general. This was demonstrated by the large numbers of pensioners, children and others who were showing their solidarity with those of us from the 99% fighting against the vicious cuts imposed on us by the 1%.

There were banners and flags from every trade union imaginable – UNITE, UNISON, PCS, RMT etc. As Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, I personally welcomed several London Ambulance Service paramedics who were there in their uniforms. There were also banners from local anti-cuts groups and from Occupy London, who sent a large delegation.

We soon had our QUAC banner up and took off on the march to Victoria Embankment through the Strand and past Trafalgar Square. Those of us carrying the banner and giving out our leaflets came from UNISON, UNITE and included an LGBT pensioner, who had been active in the original struggle for LGBT rights in the 70s as I had been. The numbers of police along the route were phenomenal – an indication of the heavy handed policing which has become normal recently  – the cost to the taxpayer must have phenomenal.

The march was good natured but serious and there was virtually no trouble, although some friend from Occupy told me that they had been kettled briefly. Our banner attracted a lot of attention and was widely photographed. Finally, hungry and knackered, we retired to a pub in Waterloo. We had shown that the LGBTQ community is truly part of the 99% and that the swingeing cuts being directed at us and our organisations can and must be resisted.