Education ministers across Australia have made a unanimous decision to implement age-appropriate consent education in all schools from 2023. The decision overcomes a long-standing reluctance to realistic school-based education about sex and consent.
Consent, in simple terms, is voluntary and explicit permission to engage in sexual activity and behaviour. It requires a person to freely decide between two options: yes and no. Consent is not forced and must be given freely and soberly.
The proposed curriculum is set revise the current Health and Physical Education standard as well to address the awareness of gender roles and stereotypes, coercion, and the abuse of power imbalances.
Fed up with hearing multiple accounts of sexual abuse from friends, the initiative comes a year after activist and sexual rights advocate Chanel Contos founded Teach Us Consent, a platform that allows users to anonymously share testimonies of sexual assault.
A petition for more holistic and earlier consent education in schools received over 44,000 signatures. Cantos specifically wanted topics of consent, slut shaming and toxic masculinity to be covered, a major effort to abolish an entrenched cultural problem in Australia.
Following the decision on the new curriculum, Contos rejoiced via Instagram, “We did it. This monumental change has only been made possible because of the tens of thousands of voices that have supported this movement.”
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded that “2.2 million women (23 per cent) and 718,000 men (8 per cent) have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime (sexual assault since the age of 15 or sexual abuse before the age of 15).” Statistics also showed that “women were more likely to experience sexual assault than men: 1.6 million (17 per cent) of women and 385,000 (4.3 per cent) of men have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15.”
Last year, the NSW government tightened measures around sexual assault law reform, requiring perpetrators to provide all evidence to demonstrate actions taken to ensure consent was given – scrapping previous pleas of ”a reasonable belief in consent.”
This latest development in the consent education mandate is a step toward primary prevention of sexual violence.
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Feature image courtesy of @pawel_czerwinski via Unsplash here.