MEP Maria Walsh calls for a frank discussion and direction on sexual and reproductive rights in education

Midlands-North-West MEP Maria Walsh says we must ensure that discussions on sexual and reproductive rights must be included in education.

MEP Walsh was speaking on a file that voted on in plenary at the European Parliament this week, on the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU.

The report calls on the European Union Institutions and Member States to ensure equality through providing access to sexual reproductive health rights services.

This report included an array of supports required for equality of women including, the call for safe and supported access to abortion procedures, cervical cancer screenings and treatment, adequate maternity leave and that women should be able to access mental and physical health supports if they experience cervical cancer, infertility, or even death during childbirth.

This discussion comes at a vital time, with backlash and regression in womens’ rights gaining momentum in countries such as Poland, where they recently re-introcuded a constitutional ban on abortion, rolling-back on progress that has been made for women’s rights in the country.

The ultimate aim of the Parliament report is to ensure that EU Member States fully acknowledge that women’s rights are human rights. They must be ensured for us to achieve equality.

Women should have choices when it comes to their own sexual and reproductive health and rights and we must ensure that the highest standard of services be provided, without discrimination.

MEP Walsh stated: “As an Irish public representative, the progression and promotion of equality is a very important objective for me.

"If we are serious about progressing equality for women we must discuss the provision of sexual and reproductive health rights. It is vital that our citizens are educated on all the aspects these rights.

“Education is a key element of my work on the Culture and Education Committee (CULT) in the Parliament, of which I am the only Irish member.

"It is essential that comprehensive and age-appropriate sexual education is taught in schools - it not only educates our young people on issues like consent, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases but also can create a safe space for a discussion on gender identity and the different forms of sexuality.

"We protect our young people most through supporting them in their journeys of self-discovery and providing safe spaces for them to discuss any issues and ask any questions they may have in this regard. Education plays an essential role in this.”

“The recent situation in Hungary is also very concerning. Hungarian law hides behind the pretense that anyone under the age of 18 who sees content involving the LGBTI community or identity is being damaged.

"This could not be more detrimental to young people, particularly when it comes to their mental health.

"We have EU citizens in Hungary, who are members of the LGBTI community, who know their government sees them as dangerous aggressors pushing an ‘anti-Hungarian agenda’.

"It is despicable and it is up to us in countries like Ireland to show support and solidarity with them at this time.”

“We have so many young people from the LGBTI community who may travel to Hungary under the Erasmus+ programme and they should be allowed to do that, without fear of discrimination.

"At home, we have also seen the worrying situation in Waterford recently where Pride flags were removed and then further to that, ‘Straight Pride’ posters were being put up.”

“We know that a comprehensive sexual education policy can have significant benefits for our young people.

"Having this discussion is a positive step forward, but we need to continue to look at how we can improve the level of information provided for through our sexual education programmes and policy. I believe this is an essential component of our fight for equality”.