Labour MP Shabana Mahmood has come under fire from Labour supporters and LGBT campaigners over a speech she made about same-sex relationship lessons in primary schools.
In response to a petition signed by over 1,700 of her constituents, the MP for Birmingham Ladywood argued in parliament that the “religious background” of pupils and the “age appropriateness” of conversations should be taken into account when teaching RSE in relation to LGBT issues.
Mahmood said all parents should have been consulted before the new RSE curriculum – a programme of lessons called ‘No Outsiders’ – was launched in local schools.
It was reported by The Guardian last week that Parkfield community school in Birmingham has stopped lessons aimed at challenging homophobia after parents protested and hundreds of Muslim children were taken out of school for a day.
It’s vital that schools follow the guidance for teaching #RSE, with parental engagement and proper consideration for pupils’ religion and background. Yesterday, I made this clear to Education ministers in response to a petition signed by 1,763 #Birmingham #Ladywood constituents. pic.twitter.com/M3Whe4SgDs
— Shabana Mahmood (@ShabanaMahmood) February 26, 2019
When the tweeted video received attention today, commentators including Owen Jones criticised the speech on Twitter, while LGBT Labour released a statement also recalling the importance of repealing Section 28.
“We have written to Shabana Mahmood MP asking to meet with her,” LGBT Labour’s Melantha Chittenden and Robbie Young said. “It is the role of any Labour MP to fight to make legislation more progressive, not to use it to help protect bigotry.”
This, from a Labour MP, is absolutely shocking. The parents at this Birmingham school are trying to stop lessons educating pupils about the existence of gay people. To suggest that isn’t “age appropriate” is the same argument used to justify Section 28. You should apologise. https://t.co/90rtE92f6g
— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) March 5, 2019
Mahmood has now written a Medium blogpost explaining her position. “Nowhere have I said that LGBT relationships should not be taught – because that’s not my position,” the post reads. “Nowhere have I called for a return to the days of Section 28 – because that law was a dehumanising stain rightly removed by a Labour government.”
She goes on to argue that the parents were “focussed not on prejudice, but on process” as “they had not been engaged with by the school” and “felt that the government guidance in place was not being followed”.
Benjamin Butterworth, a journalist and former chair of London Young Labour, tweeted in response: “This is a weak reply by @ShabanaMahmood that has lots about other issues and other people’s work in a Labour govt, but nothing taking back her suggestion it’s not “age appropriate” for kids to know some people are gay. The fact she finds it so hard to say speaks volumes.”