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Teenage delegates call for better policies on sexual health
Irish Times 05/07/2007
by Roisin Ingle

Young people are calling on the Government to acknowledge their rights such as access to sexual health services, information on sexual and reproductive issues and their right to confidentiality in these areas, as underpinned in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

At the first ever Irish Young Decision-Maker's Conference, organised by the Irish Family Planning Association and funded by global philanthropic group the Summit Foundation, young people came together to campaign for sexual and reproductive health policies they hope will improve the lives of young people worldwide.

Chaired by former PD deputy Fiona O Malley, the conference in Croke Park gave young people a chance to explore issues such as legislation on sex, sex education in Irish schools and the “abstinence only” policy pioneered in the US .

Dr Paula Mayock, from Trinity College Dublin, presented the findings of her study on sex education in Irish schools, with many of the teenage delegates complaining that there was little or inadequate sex education in their schools.

William Smith, of the Sexuality Education Information Council in the US , spoke about the “abstinence only until marriage” policy introduced by the current US administration to schools in the US and the developing world.

He told delegates that the approach promoted by groups such as True Love Waits and the Silver Ring Thing was not working despite more than $1billion being spent by the government on abstinence programmes in the past 25 years.

The conference also heard from barrister Natalie McDonnell about anomalies in the Sexual Offences Act 2006.

But she spoke of how under the Act females below the age of 17 could not be guilty of a sexual offence despite the age of consent for both males and females being 17.

“This is designed to protect young women who become pregnant, but it is discriminatory towards males under 17.