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12 Dec, 2021 16:11

Scottish government under fire for asking kids about ‘anal sex’

Scotland’s privacy regulators are investigating a government census asking children as young as 14 a range of intimate questions about their sex lives, including whether they’ve ever had anal sex.
Scottish government under fire for asking kids about ‘anal sex’

Drafted by the government, the controversial ‘Health and Wellbeing Census’ has already been handed out to secondary school students in 11 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, The Herald reported on Saturday. A total of 14 have declined to distribute it, while others want changes to a controversial section on sexual health.

This section asks children whether they have had “sexual experiences,” including “oral sex” or “vaginal or anal sex.” Other questions ask how many sexual partners the children have had in the past year, and a full list of questions has not been made available to parents.

Parents have expressed concerns about these questions, and the survey is also being investigated by Scotland’s Information Commissioner’s Office, which is responsible for upholding data privacy. While the census has been described by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as anonymous, reporting by The Herald found that local authorities will be able to identify participants by cross-checking their census forms against a separate database.

The government says that individual children may be identified if local authorities “see anything in the answers provided by some children and young people that raises some concerns.”

Privacy concerns aside, opposition to the survey has also come from conservative groups. The Family Education Trust (FET) warned that the census essentially asks children to admit to “illegal activity,” as most participants would be under the age of consent. 

“You will be aware of the negligence that was shown by many local authorities in dealing [with] the sexual abuse of young girls by grooming gangs,” the FET wrote in a letter to Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf last month. “The problem in many cases was that the local authority treated having underage sex as a normal part of growing up, thus allowing the abuse to continue.

“The questions in this survey display the same irresponsible attitude to young people’s sexual activity that was shown by so many local authorities,” the letter concluded.

Amid mounting controversy, Sturgeon told the Scottish parliament on Thursday that children will be free to opt out of the survey or skip questions that make them uncomfortable. She insisted, however, that the census asks vital questions for crafting policy for kids.

“We can refuse to ask the questions so that we don’t know the answers, or we can get the answers that then allows us to better support young people,” she said.

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