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UK rejects calls for body image sex ed lessons to help LGBTI teens

UK rejects calls for body image sex ed lessons to help LGBTI teens

body image Young LGBTI people are disproportionately affected by mental health conditions | Photo: felipetorresmx Instagram

The UK Government has rejected calls from it’s Youth Select Committee to make talking about body image a compulsory part of relationship and sex education.

They do this despite accepting they do not know enough about ‘the many complex factors that cause body dissatisfaction.’

The rejection of the report’s recommendations come on the 30th anniversary of Section 28. Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government brought in the legislation banning the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in schools. The law, repealed 15 years later, created a generation of young people and teachers afraid to speak about their sexuality.

In a move that could liberate young people to talk about their body image at school, today the UK government ignores it’s Youth Select Committee’s calls to introduce body images discussions into the curriculum.

Thomas Copeland the Chair of the committee, tells Gay Star News that though they welcome the Government’s admission they don’t know enough – they are disappointed the Government won’t do more.

‘It is clear that many LGBT+ young people living in the UK are struggling with body dissatisfaction. This happens for a number of reasons, ranging from the pressure of social media and pervasive advertisement.

And now says it’s absolutely imperative that the Government investigates the gaps in their knowledge. Calling on the government to then act on the findings to ‘improve the mental health and wellbeing of all LGBT+ people.’

The Government has agreed to now investigate how much body image is impacting young LGBT+ people.

Victoria Atkins MP, the new minister for women, says she sees ‘body image as integral to achieving gender equality.’ Acknowledging the consequences gender stereotypes can have on young people’s mental and physical wellbeing.

But she stopped short of many of the report’s recommendations. This includes making it a compulsory part of the curriculum.

Atkins key commitment is to do an audit of the resources about body image on the Gov.uk website but rejects the reports calls to make body image discussions a compulsory part of the curriculum.

What is the benefit of young people talking about body image and gender stereotypes?

Nearly half of young trans people will try to take their lives, and a recent report by Stonewall in Scotland shows 9 in 10 trans young people self-harm.

In the wider community, LGBTI young people you are four times more likely to kill themselves than their heterosexual counterparts.

A spokesperson for the youth council tells GSN body dissatisfaction has long-lasting consequences. Therefore in many cases ‘it is important to invest in early intervention to tackle poor body image.’

Body image issues are not a designated mental health condition. But the report shows the links with the higher likelihood of mental and physical illness diagnoses.

‘Poor body image has links to young people starting and continuing with risky behaviors. Including smoking, drug and alcohol use, and unsafe sexual practices.  It can also have a detrimental impact on physical health.’

The Youth Select Committee is part of the British Youth Council charity and is supported by the House of Commons.

It comes as the government also launches a study into the impact of social media.

The Education Policy Institute reports that nearly all (95%) of UK 15-year-olds use social media before or after school. Half of nine to 16-year-olds use smart-phones on a daily basis.

The Children’s Commissioner says children aged eight to 12 find it hard to manage the impact of social media.

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