Sex education promoting promiscuity among young: report

SEX education is promoting sexual behaviour among young people and not showing all the risks, a new report claims.

The report, released today, concludes that the overall message to young people is that sex is okay as long as you use a condom.

But schools and sex education providers say the report - commissioned by conservative lobby group Family First - is sometimes homophobic and fails to recognise the changing world in which young people live.

R18: Sexuality Education in New Zealand: A Critical Review was the work of United States psychiatrist Dr Miriam Grossman.

She analysed key resources recommended to Kiwi adolescents including those offered by the Family Planning Association and the Aids Foundation.

"While most of these resources claim to promote sexual health, we find, overall, little encouragement of restraint or self-discipline. Instead, students are informed that at any age, sexual freedom is a right," said Dr Grossman.

"Sex is seen as risky only when it's unprotected. The efficacy of condoms is overstated - in some cases, vastly so. Young people are led to believe that sex is easily divorced from emotional attachment.

Worst of all, critical life-and-death information is distorted or ignored."

Dr Grossman regularly speaks about sex education in the US but she has come under fire because of her strongly conservative views and her church affiliations.

She participates in several Christian right-winged organisations and is involved with the World Congress of Families - a Christian international networking conference.

Themes and concerns raised in the report included sexual activities described too explicitly and the lack of information about the anatomical differences between men and women and how sex affected them differently; particularly teenage girls.

Anal sex and the possible risks associated with it were not fully revealed in resources; which seemed to "white-wash" the possible diseases and consequences - both physically and emotionally - associated with having sex.

Shaun Robinson, executive director of the Aids Foundation, said the resources analysed were not out to promote high-risk behaviour, but to change it.

The foundation aimed to change risky behaviours among gay men and in doing so, prevent diseases, namely HIV. "It encourages behaviour change - celebrating condoms as a normalised part of sex."

Mr Robinson said parts of the report were homophobic and unfair, particularly to young men who were still trying to understand their sexuality.

Rainbow Youth executive director Tom Hamilton said his organisation focused more on gender and sexual identity rather than sexual health, but he was supportive of the websites criticised in the report.

The report's release follows recent publicity about an 11-year-old Auckland boy who fathered a child after having sex with his best friend's 36-year-old mother.

Principals Federation president Phil Harding said sex education in schools was sometimes criticised for revealing too much, but it was vital to discuss these issues with children.

"We live in a changing world and it would be naive to think that children are not learning about these things earlier, through the internet and television," he said.

"It's about feeding them up-to-date information which parents should then be discussing with them ... so they can then make informed decisions."

At issue

*Information on sexual activities too explicit.
*Sexual freedom, at any age, is promoted as a right.
*Sex-related diseases and health risks "white-washed".
*Little encouragement of sexual abstinence.