Violence against Women and Girls

Part of Contamination of Beef Products – in the House of Commons at 2:17 pm on 14th February 2013.

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Photo of Mike Freer Mike Freer Conservative, Finchley and Golders Green 2:17 pm, 14th February 2013

I am pleased to note that a male Minister is responding to the debate. All too often, debates such as this are shunted off into the category of “women’s issues”, and it is left to our female colleagues to engage in them.

Other Members, including in particular my hon. Friend Dr Wollaston, have spoken powerfully about sexualisation and normalisation. The issue of female genital mutilation was raised by my hon. Friend—my good friend—Jane Ellison and Diana Johnson, who I know have done extremely good work in that regard.

There are two issues that especially concern me, and on which I press schools in my constituency. One is the use of social media for the swapping of sexual images. What worries me is that, while adults swapping sexual images of children are committing a criminal offence, when children do the same thing it seems to be regarded as a bit of a lark. I hope that the Government will think about whether the providers of social networks should bear some form of culpability. Are they not committing an offence by allowing the transmission of what is effectively child pornography?

I have also pressed local schools on the issue of consent. Too often we think that if a woman does not say no, there is implied consent. I wrote to all my local secondary schools asking whether in personal, social, citizenship and health education—I wish someone could come up with a better name, as PSCHE is a bit of a mouthful—they teach express consent, because not saying no is not consent. I was pleased that all the schools replied saying that the point had been taken on board. Will the Minister press the Department for Education to update the curriculum on PSCHE so that express consent, not just consent, is taught?

Those are my two points. I hope that the Minister will comment on whether the transmission of what is, in effect, child pornography can be dealt with by taking action against the network providers and whether the curriculum can be updated.