Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:09 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee 8:09 pm, 11th March 2019

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that point. We should not allow anybody to hide behind religious or cultural practices when it comes to relationships and sex education. Every child in this country deserves to understand how these issues affect them, and the Government are absolutely right to have made it mandatory for children to attend relationships and sex education. It is particularly important that relationships education has been made mandatory among primary school aged children; it is only by teaching children what a good relationship looks like that we can hope to be able to give them the wherewithal to tackle the online world in which they live. That is a very important enabler that the Government need to ensure is in place. It is not enough for them simply to pass this Bill today, to put it on to the legislative books. They need to ensure that parents are engaging with it and that teachers are confident about the issues so that they can talk to parents.

It is also incredibly reassuring that the Government are looking at this issue as part of their wider cohesive strategy on violence against women and girls that crosses Government Departments. On the Women and Equalities Committee, we do not always encounter cross-departmental strategies on issues to do with discrimination. We have been extremely impressed with the commitment of the Government to have not only a strategy in this area, but a refresh of the strategy on a regular basis, which I was pleased to see will also happen when it comes to sex and relationships education as well. If we are to make this particular piece of legislation work as it should, it needs to be seen alongside the other issues that are covered in the violence against women and girls strategy—issues such as the link between pornography and violence against women, online abuse, and the impact of alcohol on violence against women. The Government are right to have this sort of comprehensive strategy in place. Again, I think they will find extremely strong support from all parts of the House for their very collaborative and cohesive approach.