DOREEN WACHMANN COLUMN
Sex education is a must for all pupils

MANY non-charedim ridicule ultra-Orthodox strict laws of sexual separation, just as non-extremist Muslims similarly regard the wearing of the face-covering niqab.

But are these lifestyles, which are aimed at promoting chastity before marriage, any worse than the epidemic of over-sexualisation which is blighting young lives in secular societies all over the world?

A recent survey showed that threequarters of British parents believe their children will lose their virginity at the age of 16 or younger.

In the wake of last week's recommendations for sex education in schools, a feature in The Times on "10 conversations we should have with our daughters" began with the statement: "No parent relishes the idea of talking to their child about sex".

Ironically, I suspect that is more true about modern Orthodox parents than of their charedi counterparts who set down strict guidelines on the separation of the sexes until such time as a shidduch and quick marriage.

But how does the less charedi section of the community deal with the issue?

I would love to know because it seems to be that, even this oh-too-open 21st century, it is still a taboo subject.

Charedi families have strict rules for Internet access for youngsters. But what about Jewish kids from less frum families?

Do they have the same access to online porn and revealing selfies as the rest of the population?

Is there a middle ground between charedi strict sexual segregation and rushing to have sex in one's early teens?

Is it possible for Jewish teenagers to be able to talk normally to members of the opposite sex without immediately falling into bed with one another?

These are subjects not talked about outside the charedi community. But if government proposals for sex education in primary schools come into force it will be a subject which will have to be addressed.

Charedi schools already have problems with government educational guidelines in many areas, including sex education.

But the charedi message to youngsters is simple - no touching of the opposite sex until the yichud room after the chuppah.

What is the sexual message that mainstream Jewish schools should be sending out to their pupils?

I would like to see sex education in these more open-minded schools promoting an informed critique of the current damaging sexualisation of young people's lives with its consequent effects of revenge porn, online bullying and disastrous consequences on youngster's mental health.

Instead, mainstream Jewish schools should highlight the Jewish model of the sanctity of human relationships within the context of marriage and the importance of character traits rather than physical attributes within these relationships.

Turning a blind eye and hoping the subject of teenage sex will go away is just daft when our youngsters' lives are so much at risk at such an early age.


Religion cannot be divorced from politics

THERE was outrage last week from the government and certain sections of the media at a letter by Church of England bishops critical of current policies.

The Chaplain to the Queen, the Rev Gavin Ashenden, claimed that religious involvement in politics indicates a lack of faith "in God's ability to change human nature".

But a glance at the Old Testament, which is the foundation of all three major religions, shows that biblical heroes and prophets were actually commanded by God to intervene in the political arena.

Joseph sorted out the Egyptian economy through his advice to save during the good years for those of hardship to come.

Moses was the freedom fighter-par-excellence with his plea to "let my people go". Mordechai, whose story we soon read on Purim, became Persian prime minister and prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah constantly tried to advise Judean kings on foreign policy alliances.

There is no such thing as a separation between religion and politics. The whole world is governed by God with individuals being given the franchise to make their own decisions, as in a democracy.

But religiously inspired and motivated spiritual leaders are entitled to publicly promote their views as long as they are for the communal good and not just for narrow self-interest.

The bishops were right to attack the current lack of vision among today's main political parties and to attack government policies which encouraged people to fear foreigners and be jealous of those who needed welfare.

We would have a much better society here in the UK if politicians promoted moral visions rather mere economic ones.

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