The British Humanist Association (BHA) is among a number of organisations demanding greater action on women’s health issues as part of International Day of Action for Women’s Health. It has today renewed its calls for equal provision of abortion services across the UK, as well as for a statutory requirement to teach good-quality Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in all schools. The latter follows proposals from the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, which would require schools in designated at-risk areas to teach about the dangers of religious Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) practices.
Responding to the Deputy Prime Minister’s proposals, BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘FGM is a horrific practice which is rightly illegal in the UK, as it is many other developed countries, though it is nevertheless thought to occur in surprisingly large numbers. It is right for the Deputy Prime Minister to propose greater action to raise awareness of the issue so that more young women – as well as teachers, police, and health and social workers – can be informed about the practice and equipped to help stamp it out.
‘However, rather than target schools in specific communities, the Government ought to be working towards a broader statutory role for Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education on the National Curriculum in all schools – one which includes good-quality SRE. SRE ought to teach children about the dangers posed by illegal practices such as FGM, but it is also important that age-appropriate and accurate SRE informs young people from all backgrounds about beginning and maintaining rewarding relationships, STIs, abortion, sexual orientation, and the many forms of family relationship conducive to individual fulfilment and the stability of society.’
Women’s health and reproductive rights are a core campaign area for the BHA, and in recent months it has lobbied for change both in the UK and internationally. Most recently, today the BHA had cause to celebrate the European Commission’s decision not to act on a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) which aimed to cut off funding for abortion services in low and middle-income countries. This comes following a joint statement in April signed by the BHA alongside numerous campaign groups and learned societies which urged the Commission to stand up for maternal rights and reject the ECI. Closer to home, the BHA has also spoken out on the variance in the availability of abortion services in the UK, and has called on lawmakers to harmonise the law concerning access to safe and free abortion services UK following an English High Court judgment which found that Northern Irish women, who cannot receive abortion services at home, do not have the right to travel to England and receive these services from the NHS.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson also commented, ‘International Day of Action for Women’s Health is a welcome opportunity for all of us to reflect on what we can do to ensure that all women have access to safe and free reproductive health services. However, just as with the recent European Commission decision, which is likely to be challenged in an appeal from religious conservative campaigners, we must not take for granted the availability of such health services in this country. Indeed, women in Northern Ireland still do not have access to the reproductive care which in practice is available to women in England, Wales, and Scotland. We call on officials to urgently look into rectifying this situation, as well as for the introduction of statutory PSHE incorporating SRE, which would go a long way towards ensuring the future well-being of our young men and young women alike, no matter where they go to school.’
For further information or comment, contact BHA Head of Public Affairs, Pavan Dhaliwal at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0773 843 5059.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.