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Teen Sex Education, Going Dutch

Teen Sex Education, Going Dutch

The Ministry of Justice is to be commended for re-examining the law surrounding age of consent, however Labour’s abrupt U-turn would have us criminalise half of all teenagers who continue to experiment sexually outside the law. The attitude of ‘sending the clear message’ that underage sex is wrong ignores reality and has thus far maintained burgeoning STD's and Pregnancy rates. Sanctimony has won the day, with barely a thought given to examining what the impediments to the desired health outcomes might be.

Why aren’t the health and safety messages getting through to teens. Why are kiwi kids so rebellious? Why are we not delving a little deeper and recognising that ‘just say no’ is a phrase that is perhaps understandably greeted with no small amount of ridicule by the youth culture?

Other jurisdictions, including 20 other European countries have ages of consent lower than 16 for sexual relations. (Contrary to a recent Waikato Times oped. 25may). These include Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Iceland and Spain, however, it is the Netherlands where age of consent is 12yrs that we may well learn the most from.

Dutch youth STD's, pregnancy's and abortions are but a fraction of ours, and Holland puts to shame our repressed and repressive' outmoded public health education and laws. Why do I use these words?

In the civil society of Holland where adults may freely partake in the use of marijuana and magic mushrooms it appears non-judgmental (read non-criminalised) values are those best received by young people. Sex education, contraceptive advice and safer sex materials to teenagers under 16 are part of a successful ‘harm reduction’ rationale. Dutch early entry drug uptake is also notably only a fraction of NZ’s.

Liberal Dutch attitudes have not led to any increase in the sexual abuse of young people, and abortions in girls under 16 are less than twenty percent our own. Dutch teenagers have their first sexual experience at a later age than their British counterparts according to research by 'Heart of the Matter' (BBC TV, 17 July 1994). Dutch teens also defer other risk taking behaviors including drug and alcohol use where they have a laudable predisposition to "moderation" compared to our binge culture. See the linkages anyone? This must leave a few family values advocates wondering. [It certainly leaves me, a father of two teens curious as to what standard do we judge Dutch policy before we can attribute it as being successful?.]

Teens, while protected by laws against rape and indecent assault are empowered to greater sexual wisdom and responsibility by having the legal right to make their own decisions about sexual relationships without being victimised, threatened or alienated by the law. Youth sex is not something sordid and thus hidden, nor is it compulsory. NZ's criminal youth-sex laws are responsible for levels of deception, aggression and suicide curiously absent from the Dutch youth data suggesting informed and confident young people are more likely to resist sexual exploitation and report abuse than those who are sexually ignorant and ashamed.

In the absence of healthy debate maybe there is truth in the old addage that forbidden fruit indeed tastes sweetest.

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