By Shauna Mc Hugh
NUI Galway’s Bród Soc have recently been making waves on Twitter, thanks to their strong campaign to reform the sex education system within the Republic of Ireland. It has been a busy period for the society, who also recently underwent a name change and subsequent rebranding. Formerly known as GIG Soc (short for Gay In Galway Society), the group chose the new Irish title as they believed it was more inclusive. In their official statement, the society explained; “This year our committee decided we wanted to re-brand with a more inclusive name for our society. Bród meaning Pride in Irish was the most popular option for our name change and, as NUI Galway is the only bilingual college in Ireland, we are delighted to have our name in Irish.”
While the rebranding was all about inclusivity, the society’s recent campaign had the same objectives, except, in this case, the focus was on heightening the inclusion of LGBTQ+ topics in Ireland’s sex education syllabus. On March 13th, the society’s campaign went live, with Bród Soc launching a series of tweets damning the nation’s current “outdated and inadequate” sex education system in a bid to get #IreReformSexEd trending.
In conjunction with their campaign, Bród Soc also released a video outlining the shortcomings and inaccuracies of the current sex education system in Ireland. The six-and-a-half-minute long video asks queer students about their experience of sex education in Irish secondary schools, with some very illuminating answers. One of the participants in the video claims that an SPHE teacher told her class that asexuality didn’t actually exist, while many others highlighted that in the very few cases where gay sex was ever mentioned, the information given focused on the risks associated with sex between two males, while no information was provided about safe sex between two women. Of the ten students in the video that were asked if gender identity was ever discussed in their SPHE classes, only one said that it had ever been addressed, and this was only because their particular school had some transgender students. Meanwhile, every student asked agreed that the internet was their main source of sexual education – from Pornhub, to Tumblr, to Buzzfeed videos and fanfiction. As the video fades to black, it leaves viewers with the following conclusion: “Answers like this should not exist in Ireland. Curriculums should be thorough and cater to everyone”.
It was in pursuit of such a diverse curriculum that Bród Soc appealed to educational leaders through social media. Their Twitter campaign last week garnered much attention, even gaining support from prominent political figures. Local Galway City councillor Owen Hanley joined in on the hashtag, tweeting that “We all know sex ed in this country is non-existent but there is a real problem with sex ed for LGBTQ students. Basic information is not being communicated that could keep people safe, healthy, and happy”.
Ireland’s current official SPHE syllabus for Junior Cycle aims to educate students “about the important moral, physical, social and emotional issues around relationships, sex and sexuality, including where to get reliable information from trusted sources”. SPHE is not formally assessed in the Junior Certificate examination. The Senior Cycle syllabus, meanwhile, includes an RSE (Relationships and Sexuality Education) programme. The three themes of RSE at post-primary level are: human relationships, human growth and development, and human sexuality. However, the Bród Soc members featured in the campaign video claim that such adequate topics are not adequately taught in the majority of Irish secondary schools, especially not to non-heterosexual students. Judging by the huge support for their campaign to reform the current syllabus, it seems that much of the Irish population agrees that change is needed….#IreReformSexEd.