Thursday, 24 April 2008

teenage pregnancy, stupid women and bungy jumping on a condom elastic

On Teenage Pregnancy....official statistics in February showed Teenage pregnancy rates are declining. Good news. Even more good news to read today that the Improvement and Development Agency reports on Local Area Agreements show that the second most common priority for Local Authorities in England is reducing the under 18 conception rate.

On stupid women - this came into my inbox recently....
I have decided to do a bit of campaigning journalism and have set up a website and Downing Street e-petition about better access to emergency contraception morning after pill). If you are a journalist receiving this email, or a blogger, do please consider writing about this subject and linking to the petition.

Here is the link to the petition if you want to sign it:

And here is the website that explains what it is I am doing and why:

Basically, at the moment if a woman wants emergency contraception she must get it herself at the time of needing it. Although in 2006 the Royal Pharmaceutical Society issued a statement saying that it is not against the advanced supply of emergency contraception in principle, in many instances women are being refused advance provision by pharmacists.

This means that a woman can't buy it in advance from pharmacies to keep in the bathroom cabinet in case a condom splits. Nor can someone else buy it for her unless they can convince the pharmacist that it is an exceptional situation such as a person being housebound. Being stuck at work or at home looking after children is not usually deemed a good enough reason. Mums cannot buy it for daughters. A woman's partner cannot buy it for her. Nor can her friend.

Many people including some pharmacists argue that this is because emergency contraception should not be used other than in an emergency and that they need to ask certain questions of women before they can take it. This suggests women are incapable of self-diagnosing - something we actually do every time we take a painkiller which, taken wrongly, could also harm us.

If you support this please pass this email onto your friends and contacts - the more people who sign the petition the more notice government will take and things might change. If you can do write to your MP about this too - there is a sample letter on the website that you can copy.

Finally on condom bungys...did you see the Metro on Tuesday - a South African guy used 18,500 out of date condoms tied together and bungy jumped from them without even checking them with sand bags first. A joker in my team thought I should do it to raise money for Brook - clearly they want me to give a bit more to my work!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Council of Europe speaks sense on abortion and sex education

In amongst the noise about abortion over recent months it is brilliant that today the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called for its member states to guarantee womens right to access to a safe and legal abortion.

The Assembly brings together national parliamentarians from 47 European countries, representing 800 million Europeans.
The parliamentarians said that abortion should be avoided as far as possible and “in no circumstances be regarded as a family planning method” but that a total ban did not result in fewer abortions, leading instead to traumatic clandestine abortions and abortion “tourism”.

In the resolution the parliamentarians said medical and psychological care, as well as suitable financial cover, should be offered to women seeking abortions, and conditions which restricted access to safe abortion should be lifted.

They also called for school pupils to receive “compulsory age-appropriate, gender-sensitive education on sex and relationships” in order to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and therefore abortions.

Monday, 14 April 2008

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones

It bothers me enormously that we condemn young people without looking in the mirror. One of my early lessons in life was, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

The front page of the Metro today reports drink, sex, age of 12. I am quoted as saying that my staff 'had heard of cases where children as young as 12 had needed treatment' (I added) 'it is important they get treatment.

Yes it is important they get treatment, and it is important that we understand the wider context. Most young people under the age of 16 do not have sex, and of those that do, many are responsible about sex, responsible about contraception and actively seek the help and support they need. At Brook we see 1500 young people everyday, 1500 young people learning about their sexuality, their choices and learning to manage their sexual health. We also see many young people who have got drunk and do not know whether they had sex, or whether they used contraception.

Drink, sex and STDs is not the norm at the age of 12, nor indeed at 14. Before taking another swipe at young people and their conduct, maybe we need to look to ourselves, the adults who help determine the culture in which young people are learning about sex, and learning about alcohol. When it comes to alcohol young people learn from us - and they tell me they learn that you drink to be happy, drink to celebrate, drink to commisserate, drink to ease the pain.

And we also use drink as an excuse sometimes - I was too drunk, I don't remember, I couldn't help it, and because of our attitude to drinking, alcohol is an acceptable excuse for unprotected sex or for having sex you didn't really want.

But that doesn't stop at the miracle age of 21. So let us not get hysterical about the very small numbers of 12 year olds who get drunk and have sex, though we must be concerned. Let us instead use our energy creatively and productively to think about our attitude to alcohol, our attitude to sexuality and our attitude to young people.

When I worked at National Children's Bureau ( I did a project on the links between sex, alcohol and other drugs. Young people told me they wanted more things to do so they didn't just hang out on street corners, bored and looking for fun. Lets really join up policy - start from a premise of trusting and respecting young people and offer them the opportunities for risk, pleasure and excitement through play and recreation, safe spaces to hang out, and to be with their friends.

Brook produces a pack - drunk in charge of a body, exploring the links between alcohol and sexual risk taking - visit to find out more. Lets support them to think about the links between alcohol and risk taking, rather than keep telling them they are feckless, irresponsible and remarkably different from many of their elders.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Does our children's workforce understand healthy sexual development

I was running training last week on sexual health and teenage pregnancy. As we went through the day it became clear that we need to do a lot more to help professionals understand what normal healthy sexual development in children and young people is. If professionals understand healthy sexual development they are going to be much more confident about when they need to act in order to protect children and young people, and when they need to simply provide the advice and support young people deserve and require so they can learn to manage their relationships and their sexual choices.

Brook is organising a course in the autumn to address this need - date still tbc. Email if you would like details about the course - provisional title, 'is this normal - understanding healthy sexual development in children and young people - to be emailed to you shortly.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

new guide on sexual health outreach

We have just published a guide on sexual health outreach. It is a really good publication. It helps to bring sexual health outreach into the mainstream and provides clear advice and guidance on how to design and deliver effective activity.

visit our website to find out more