April 2011 (To print, click the print icon on your browser
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Comprehensive Sex Education Program Launched for British Scouts

In April 2011, the Scouts Association in London will be adding a sex education class to its more traditional activities, such as camping, canoeing, and climbing. The program, titled “My Body, My Choice,” is designed for scouts ages 14–18 and features lessons on healthy relationships and sexual behavior.[1] It aims to educate the roughly 35,000 scouts about sexual health in an effort to reduce the high pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates throughout the United Kingdom. By offering young people accurate information they may not receive at home or school, the program seeks to help teens make responsible decisions about their sexual health and develop healthy relationships.[2]
 
“My Body, My Choice” is a comprehensive program designed to reflect the growing demand from both adult leaders and young people for more information on matters of sexual health. In 2008, the Scouts Association established guidelines for scout leaders to help them appropriately handle questions from young scouts about sex and relationships.[3] This year, the association decided to take more proactive measures to support young people’s sexual health by introducing “My Body, My Choice.” They cited the fact that the United Kingdom has both the highest rate of teenage pregnancies and STDs across Europe and believe that by educating young teens they can be part of the solution.[4] The association looked at factors that contribute to risky sexual behavior in adolescence, such as low self esteem, lack of social skills, lack of knowledge about the risks associated with sexual behavior, and individuals’ attitudes and decided that they could help influence youth to make safer decisions.
 
With the “My Body, My Choice” program the Scouts Association aims to target sexual health issues that face British youth from a different perspective. The hope is that educating youth about sex and relationships will lead them to take preventive measures and develop healthy habits in the future. The program begins with a brief overview of the current status of sexual health outcomes among young people in the United Kingdom. At the moment, 20 percent of all girls under the age of 18 will become pregnant at least once, and three-quarters of those pregnancies will be unplanned. In addition, two-thirds of new STD infections occur in women under the age of 25; and approximately 10 percent of those women will be reinfected in the next year.[5] Leaders are expected to inform scouts of these statistics and then gauge what they already know about sexual health in order to make the program as effective as possible. In addition to addressing norms regarding teenage sex, the program focuses on the creation of healthy relationships. It encourages young people to not assume that everyone is engaging in sexual activity while it dispels the myths that teenagers are accustomed to hearing.[6] Supplemental program activities cover a range of issues from condom usage to refusal skills. Many of the activities are hands-on and give scouts a chance to participate in group exercises. Scout leaders have the choice of teaching all, part, or none of the material to their troops. The scouts will also be notified, as will their parents, of the material so they can choose to opt out of instruction.[7]
 
The new program challenges the original thoughts of Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell, who once recommended washing with cold water to overcome any sexual longing and encouraged those with “primitive sexual urges” to focus their energies on “out-of-door manly activities.”[8] Many of the country’s leaders, however, see the program as a step in the right direction for combating issues many teenagers are facing and providing necessary information to young people. Bishop Richard Moth of Britain’s military diocese commended the program for discussing the role of abstinence in addition to discussing preventative measures such as condom use.[9]
 
Chief Scout Bear Grylls sees the program as necessary for youth development. “This programme is about getting the right information to young people to help them make smart decisions about their relationships,” said Grylls. “We want to help young people become confident, clued-up and aware. My message is: make your own mind up and don’t let others do it for you. We only get one body, so respect it.”[10]

 

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[1] “Lessons on Condoms for Scouts,” IOL Lifestyle, 18 April 2011, accessed 21 April 2011, <http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/family/kids/lessons-on-condoms-for-scouts-1.1058457>.
[2] Scout Association, “My Body, My Choice,” Leader’s notes published April 2011, accessed 21 April 2011, <http://www.scouts.org.uk/documents/EcommsDocs/MyBodyMyChoice_leaders.pdf>.
[3] Janaki Mahadevan, “Scouts Introduce Sexual Education Programme,” Children and Youth People Now, 5 April 2011, accessed 21 April 2011, <http://www.cypnow.co.uk/Health/article/1063950/Scouts-introduce-sexual-education-programme/>.
[4] Scout Association, “Promoting Good Sexual Health within Scouting—Advice for Adults in Scouting,” 11 March 2011, accessed 21 April 2011, <http://www.scoutbase.org.uk/library/hqdocs/facts/pdfs/fs950000.pdf>.
[5] Scout Association, “My Body, My Choice.”
[6] Scout Association, “Promoting Good Sexual Health within Scouting—Advice for Adults in Scouting.”
[7] Ibid.
[8] “Lessons on Condoms for Scouts.”
[9] Simon Caldwell, “British Bishop Welcomes Scouting Document, ‘My Body, My Choice,’” Catholic News Service, 14 April 2011, accessed 13 June 2011, <http://www.catholicreview.org/subpages/storyworldnew-new.aspx?action=9829>.
[10] “Do We Get a Badge for This? Scouts to Get Lesson on How to Use Condoms,” Daily Mail, 5 April 2011, accessed 21 April 2011, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1373476/Do-badge-Scouts-lessons-use-condoms.html#ixzz1KHB1vYfE>.