New Zealand: Group calls for mandatory sexual consent education for tertiary students

New Zealand/September 25, 2020/By: Laura Wiltshire/Source:

A group is calling for sexual consent education to be made mandatory for all first-year tertiary education students in New Zealand, to help counter rates of sexual violence on campus.

Thursdays in Black, a student-led group working towards a world without sexual violence, have launched a petition calling for a consistent approach to consent education, as opposed to the current, fragmented system.

National co-ordinator Jahla Lawrence said compulsory education would provide cohesion, and help tackle an issue which tends not to be talked about in New Zealand.

”Students are getting different qualities of this education, and are having very, very different experiences. We are just hoping to create some uniformity,” Lawrence said.

“For the most part, there is an acceptance that this is a problem which needs a solution, but there is a difficulty bringing that to light, and providing concrete commitments.”

Research showed one in three students will experience sexual violence while studying, which mirrors research in the general population that one in four women and one in six men will experience sexual harm during their life-time. People aged 16 to 24 are the most at risk.

The group had struggled to find an example of best practice consent education, with much of the research coming from the United States, which has a different context to New Zealand.

“We would really encourage increased research into what best practice would look like in New Zealand, obviously making sure that is a bicultural model,” Lawrence said.

They would encourage an in-person, comprehensive programme run over a period of time, rather than an online model.

Chief executive of RespectEd Aotearoa, Fiona McNamara, said she supported compulsory consent education in tertiary institutions. This included both student and staff education.

Universities were known to be high risk places for sexual assault, with many students living away from home for the first time, as well as a culture of alcohol consumption while socialising.

She also wanted to see compulsory consent education at school level, as well as in professional settings.

“We believe all sexual harm is preventable.”

Green Party MP Jan Logie said sexual harm was preventable, and everyone had a role to play in its prevention.
Green Party MP Jan Logie said sexual harm was preventable, and everyone had a role to play in its prevention.

Green MP and parliamentary undersecretary for Justice (sexual and domestic violence issues), Jan Logie, helped bring the Thursdays in Black movement to New Zealand in 1994.

She said it was great to see the students still calling for cultural change.

As well as compulsory consent education, ensuring it was easier for people to disclose sexual violence and cleaning up the justice system would help tackle the issue, she said.

Like McNamara, she believed sexual harm was preventable, and everyone had a role to play.

Engagement vice-president at Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association, Joanna Li, said VUWSA believes consent education is a step towards stamping out sexually harmful behaviours in the community.

“It is genuinely worrying the lack of information some students are coming to university with. Consent Education that is conducted in a safe and respectful way, with students at the core of its development is definitely welcomed by VUWSA.”

Massey University Student’s Association also supported compulsory consent education, for both students and staff, president Stefan Biberstein said.

”Training modules completed before enrolment or employment, regardless of year of study or seniority would be a step in the right direction.”

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said students should learn about consent and positive relationships at school, to “best prepare young people for life after school, whether it be further education or employment”.

“That’s why sexuality education is part of the curriculum and we’ve recently updated guidelines for boards, school leaders and teachers to create inclusive and safe health programmes.”

Hipkins said tertiary education providers take the issue of sexual violence on campus serious, and are aware of their responsibility for the wellbeing of students.

“When the Code of Pastoral Care comes into effect in 2022, it will reinforce tertiary education providers’ responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of their students.”

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New Zealand: Group calls for mandatory sexual consent education for tertiary students – Sarraute Educación María Magdalena

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