Mandatory relationship and sexuality education in secondary schools could help address gender-based violence in Ireland, the National Women’s Council of Ireland has claimed.
The council is today hosting a discussion on ways to redevelop the secondary level curriculum to help address an ‘epidemic’ of violence against women in Ireland.
The meeting will hear from representatives of parents and students as well as experts from the curriculum redevelopment and violence against women fields.
The NWCI believes relationship classes could foster a broader understanding of how to respect a partner and how to see the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.
University College Cork (UCC) Law Professor Louise Crowley believes it is important to educate young people during their formative years.
“It’s really critical because unfortunately a lot of young people are living in a society where so many social norms are quite damaging,” she told Newstalk Breakfast.
“There seems to be a growing acceptance of those [social norms] and a desensitisation, so really its critical to understand consent and how to communicate consent.
“What consent looks like is a fundamental building block of that but so too is that broader social understanding of interactions with each other.”
Men are watching violent porn, involving choking and rape, from a “younger and younger age,” the Law Professor continued.
“The types of relationships that are being displayed on porn. They’re all problematic,” said Ms Crowley.
“There is no level of porn that is okay; it demonstrates power, control, and the misogynistic thoughts that are espoused.
“Young boys, in particular, are living, socialising, and interacting in an information vacuum, other than that type of source, if we don’t have this mandatory education.”
This comes as tougher sentences for domestic and gender-based violence came into force in Ireland earlier this month.
Ms Crowley said the level of toxicity young boys are exposed to in porn is “horrific”.
The Law Professor is calling for the support of relationship and sexuality education in secondary schools to counteract this.
“It would ensure that they have an evidence-based informed programme that permeates right throughout their second-level experience,” said Ms Crowley.
“Right now, we have no way of knowing what is driving their understanding of respectful relationships.
“We need to provide a safe space with the relevant information by teachers who are trained and supported to do so.”
Ms Crowley adds that the NWCI proposal would go a long way in addressing this “terrorising element of our society”.