A 100-strong protest at parliament turned into a celebration this morning, Friday, after Tory MP Nadine Dorries withdrew her abstinence bill.
Dorries’ private members bill would have imposed abstinence classes on teenage girls, encouraging them to “say no” to sex.
Protesters who were rallying against Dorries outside parliament cheered when the chair announced that she had withdrawn the bill.
Catherine Long, a PhD student, was on the protest. She told Socialist Worker, “The Tories have an ideology that doesn’t support women. They see single mothers as the scourge of the world.
“They want to roll back women’s rights. We have to stand up now, otherwise where will be in 10 years’ time?”
Anita Wright is a retired teacher who now works with Sertuc, the south east region of the TUC. She told Socialist Worker, “The opportunity to have proper, thorough, inclusive sex education in schools is really important.
“Yet one of the first things the Tories did when they came in was to scrap compulsory sex education in schools.
“It’s good that there are a lot of young people here demanding the right to make choices for themselves. It makes me optimistic.”
Many men joined the demonstration. Thomas Nerdi joined the protest from King’s College. “We are supposed to be in a liberal country that teaches people about sex,” he told Socialist Worker.
“This bill would be a regression.”
Lots of people described how comprehensive sex education enabled young people to make informed choices about how to live their own lives.
Kate Smurthwaite from Abortion Rights condemned Dorries for trying to feed “lies and distortion” to girls.
Others stressed that backward ideas about men and women lay behind Dorries’ bill. Hannah told Socialist Worker, “There’s nothing wrong with saying no to sex. But abstinence only education just for girls implies that girls are weak.
“It also implies that men are regularly trying to force women into sex. These are wrong ideas about how men and women behave.”
Speakers stressed that the fight to defend women’s rights and sex education was not just about taking on Dorries—and that it must continue.