Girls of 11 'Pressured into Having Unsafe Sex'; SURVEY CASTS DOUBT ON STRATEGY TO CUT TEENAGE PREGNANCY RATE

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Byline: MAXINE FRITH

YOUNG girls are still feeling pressured into having unprotected sex with boys they barely know, despite a massive campaign to reduce teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease.

A survey revealed how girls as young as 11 lose their virginity when drunk, fail to use contraception and then regret the whole experience.

The findings raise serious questions about the success of a pound sterling30 million Government strategy to educate teenage girls about the risks of unprotected sex and halve Britain's under-18 pregnancy rate by 2010. It is the highest in western Europe.

More than 2,000 girls aged 11 to 18 were questioned by the website mykindaplace.com, a site aimed at teenagers.

It found that one in five girls had lost their virginity by the age of 15, and three per cent admitted to having sex before they had even reached the age of 12. A quarter said they did not know the boy, and more than half first had sex with their boyfriend when they had known him for less than six months. Only eight per cent of the teenagers had lost their virginity to a long-term boyfriend they had been with for more than half a year.

A major plank of the Government's campaign has focused on sex education, encouraging teenagers to make informed choices about when and how to have intercourse, and giving advice on contraception and prevention of infection.

Family campaigners have criticised the strategy because it does not urge girls to abstain from sex. And the survey suggests that "life skills" classes in schools, aimed at teaching girls and boys about how to interact with each other, are not being heeded by the children most in need of them.

Jan Barlow, chief executive of teenage sexual health charity Brook, said: "It is concerning that young teenagers are still feeling pressured into having sex and are not using contraception. The most important thing is to make sure they have access to information and confidential advice about sex, so they can have the power to make their own choices. …